September 6th, 2010
We went to a performance at the Seoul Noli Madang (the home of 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli). Karjam is getting so used to the route; I think he could almost find his way there on his own. It was raining torrentially and during the first of the two groups to perform, the National (Korean) Dance Company, there was thunder that sounded like it was directly on top of the 마당 madang (performance area). It actually momentarily drowned out the completely chintzy music with some of the dance pieces, a fact for which I was grateful. The company seemed to use the opportunity to perform to showcase everything that was not exactly traditional dance. Okay, that’s not quite true, there was a very lovely dance by five men that was –perhaps- not contemporized. But I’m not making any bets, partially because I was so busy taking photos I didn’t bother to really analyze the movements. There was another dance, by a man and a woman to the 사랑가 Sarang-ga from 춘향가 Chunhyangga, imagine Romeo and Juliet as an opera and a dance to the sound of them declaring their love for each other and you’re on the right track (except it was recorded music not live). Again, although it used traditional-esque costumes and dance vocabulary, it was not exactly part of the canon. Hmmm… part of the canon. A potential way to clarify what is meant by traditional dance/performance?
The reason we were there was the second part, a mask dance presentation by 양주별산대 Yangju Byeolsandae, but as a special treat (for mask dance aficionados like myself, Kathy who was also there and of course the significant attendance by the Songpa folks (김영숙, 이수환, 김명하, 탄종원 and one other guy whose name I can’t remember) the National Dance Company presented one excerpt from 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum, again, it was stylized and “upgraded” for the audience—I will have to ask the folks at the Bongsan Talchum Preservation Association how they feel about that.
The Yangju Byeolsandae (the closest mask dance to Songpa’s dance) presentation was very interesting. Many of the motions used are the same and the two acts they presented (one long, one normal length) seemed a bit like a jumble of the story in Songpa. The interesting thing that I picked out was how dynamic it was that in the beginning of Act 3 (which they started with) a group of about six players in costumes with 풍물 pungmul instruments marched onto stage (except the novice monk had the cymbals which are not Pungmul instruments but are Buddhist instruments) followed by a couple more dancing characters. Then from within those people most of the characters for the scene appeared (and the rest of them faded off stage at some point, without being noticed by me). It was very dynamic, both because of the sounds of the music, and because of the colorfully clothed/masked players. They did a good job with the acts, too. I will need to go back and re-watch the video of the introductions (by the professional guy who is employed by the Noli Madang), that’s part of what I want to analyze for my research, but during intros everyone wants to socialize with each other, not listen, so I couldn’t pay attention. Fortunately Karjam still recorded them, at my request.
Photos with Karjam and Professor Kathy Foley courtesy of 이수환 Yi Suhwan, who insists I should start calling him 오빠 (big brother).
In the evening we went to e-mart again and I think I should schedule a little house-warming party! The oddest purchase was we finally got a little lamp (our overhead lights are bright, which is nice, but they’re BLINDING) with the Korean script pattern on it and (I’m not kidding) it was mounted upside down. Seriously. There is no way for us to fix it. I don’t know if we should ask for our money back or just laugh about it.