Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 1 of the Korean Mask Dance Festival

October 29th, 2010
In the morning I had class at Seoul National University. The class was excellent again. I am not having much difficulty understanding Professor 박현순 Bak Hyeon-sun’s Korean at all, and she is so knowledgeable it’s really quite amazing. I’m knowledgeable about things, too, but the depth with which she can answer questions I asked such as “were yangban also regulating and taking a share of the profits from fisheries in the Joseon Dynasty?” (a question only tangentially connected to the topic at hand and certainly not closely related to her research)- well it’s just really great to have met her. As I sat in class and thought about the paper she wants me to write (what? I’m auditing!) I realized that the win-win scenario would be to propose we co-write the paper. She’ll get an English language publication out of it, and I can include an incredibly awesome historical analysis section to my paper on the Grandmother scene in Hwanghae and Gyeonggi Mask Dance Dramas. I proposed that to her as she drove me to the subway station after class (third time she’s done that) not enough time to really talk through it, though.

I rushed directly to the World Cup Stadium Subway stop, which is next to the park where the 4th Annual 대한민국탈춤제 Korean Mask Dance Festival was taking place. Or so I thought. Fortunately when I asked for directions, I was directed onto a shuttle bus because the walk was estimated to be 40 minutes!!! I arrived about twenty minutes into the performance of 하회별신굿탈놀이 Hahoi Byeolshin’gut Talnoli. My friends from the group were happy to see me, but I didn’t get a chance to say more than a few words because during the ten minutes between the two shows a TV crew cornered me and insisted on an interview (I was the only foreigner in sight, the entire audience must have averaged past 60 because honestly who else has time in the middle of a Friday? And I say that even considering the grandkids and a few housewives in the audience). The crew particularly insisted because during the show 이매 Imae (the mentally retarded character in the drama) has singled me out and insisted that I (and three Koreans) get onto the stage and dance with him, and of course I’d danced well (and tied Imae’s shirt closed and so on, since I was irritated I’d been dragged onto stage). So they wanted to include a clip of me on the stage and then the interview.

Photo: classic Imae pose

The next show was 동래야류 Dongnae Yayu, but this time there was any excellent announcing during their performance, in fact the entire announcing for the day consisted of a man and a woman behind the scenes, only communicating the bare facts of name and geographic home of the various groups. I later found out that they were people from Hahoi that were on the microphones. At any rate, I still enjoyed Dongnae Yayu’s performance. They had 12 musicians including the standard bearer, which really makes them the group with the largest number of performers on the stage. Some of the old ladies sitting by me (who gave me an excellent macaroon!) were copying along and responding on the lines, and kept up a running commentary throughout. They always wanted to know if performers were men or women, they cheered loudly when Halmi chased off the concubine and they and the rest of the audience exclaimed and giggled at appropriate moments (such as when the giant acupuncture needles come out). Having such an old audience actually meant the audience was much more appropriately responsive throughout the show.

The last show for the day was 북청사자놀음 Bukcheong Saja Noleum. Since the show began at 4 p.m. I was sort of surprised to see my friend 지훈 Jihoon dancing. The show felt a little frustrating to me, since just three weeks earlier I’d seen an extended version and it was still fresh in my memory, today was unsatisfyingly abbreviated. Many parts were included but then rushed, so that the perfect flavor wasn’t communicated. [Video file of excerpts from the performance]

After the show I talked a bit to one of my 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae friends who was running a lot of organizational details backstage before I left.

The shuttle bus took me back to the stadium which has a Homeplus built into the ground floor, so I bought some good food before taking the subway home. Karjam walked down to the subway station to help me lug it home, he’s so sweet when he’s worried about my health.

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