Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 2 of the Korean Mask Dance Festival

October 30th, 2010
I made it to the festival site before the first show started for the day. I walked up seeing my 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae friend, 황종욱 Hwang Jong’uk but before I could say hi the director of 양주별산대 Yangju Byeolsandae had grabbed my face in both hands (which was sort of funny because she was in full costume with 한삼 hansam on her hands) she was so happy to see me.
“Wa, you’ve come all the way here!”
“Yes, hoijangnim, I’m really excited for the festival.”
“Are you coming to Yangju tonight?”
“Yes, I can come with this friend.” I said, reaching out to Hwang Jong’uk who was probably surprised to see me greeted so demonstratively. Then the Yangju director (김순옥 Kim Sunok) was surprised I knew him…). Of course at the end of the day when it was time to leave Hwang Jong’uk was long gone, but he’d been my back up ride, so it all worked out.

Today there was an announcer. Not just an announcer. A GREAT ONE. He was awesome. He knew a lot, and explained it concisely but in an engaging manner. He even looked perfect in 한복 hanbok and thick grey hair. He came out before Yangju Byeolsandae and between each show and did a great job, the best job of any announcer I’ve seen. On the way to Yangju I asked Bak Sang-un about him and he told that the announcer works for K.O.U.S. as an announcer and researches folk culture. I recognize his name, but I cannot place whether it’s from a publication or meeting him before or what.
Yangju Byeolsandae’s show was great. This time they had their musicians playing 해금 haegeum, 대금 daegeum, 태평소 taepyeongso and 장구 janggu along the back of the stage, somehow this placement changed the feeling of the show for me (usually they are to the side). I’ve already commented on their performances several times recently, one new thing that really stood out to me today was how the music changed and became quite melancholy after the concubine of the yangban is stolen away by a younger man.

The next performance was 통영오광대 Tongyeong Ogwangdae which of course I watched a week ago. Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing it again, I did. I feel like I’m memorizing all the member’s faces. Last time they came to Seoul the one member who is a friend of mine couldn’t come. I haven’t seen him since 2004 and I wanted to meet him face to face again, but when the show ended I couldn’t pick him out. That’s sort of embarrassing. We communicate a lot on the internet about mask dance topics. Fortunately in the evening at Yangju he came up to me (and he had a name tag on. I love name tags).

After Tongyeong was 은율탈춤 Eunyul Talchum. They are similar to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum so I felt the order of the line-up made no sense at all. (Since Bongsan was after Eunyul). I did have to go to the bathroom during all these shows, by the way. But there was basically no break, so no lunch for me and I just left the video camera running and went to the can during the least interesting to me acts. Who knows I may find a surprise later. The audience was much larger than Friday, but they were considerably less responsive. Some foreigners wandered through, some of them even stayed and watched for awhile, but still during the Yangju performance MBC asked me to give an interview (uh, I’m watching right now…). During the Eunyul Talchum performance suddenly a bunch of workers came and told all of us sitting in the prime seats that we had to move because the wives and families of G20 delegates were going to come watch. To tell the truth I was pissed off. I should move after I’ve been sitting there for two and a half hours, arriving fifteen minutes before the first show to get the good seat? I should move for some diplomat’s family even though this is integral to my Ph.D. research and they’re just showing polite interest? I should move even though if they knew we’d been moved to make room for them they’d probably be embarrassed about sitting in the now vacant seats? I didn’t move. If someone wants to bend over backward to make the G20 come off well, that’s great. But I don’t think that their minders should do that by having them show up half way through a show, necessitating a scene to be cut short and the announcer to come out on stage again and tell everyone what was going on and introduce the next scene again (in Korean which none of the diplomatic families could understand and he’d already explained the whole mask dance before it started). They left before that scene was over. Oh well.

The last show was 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum. Their show started late. Even though Eunyul went over time (partially because of the G20 thing), Bongsan started fifteen minutes later and by that time a fair amount of the audience had given up and wandered towards the sounds of other activities in other areas. The Bongsan show started with the 사상좌춤 Sasangjwa dance and within a few moments it was apparent one of the four dancers did not belong with the rest. The dance is very slow, and though the movements are simple, it’s quite difficult because all four must be perfectly in sync with each other (and the small mask eye-holes, their telescope vision field, and the fact that the dancers aren’t always facing each other make that even more difficult). The rest of the show was fairly enjoyable, but there were several hiccups that someone like I could notice, if not a regular audience member. [Video excerpts from the Bongsan Performance]
Photos: Bongsan Talchum. The monk in yellow is No. 3, my favorite to dance as I often mention. The four white characters are the sa (four) sangjwa (novice monks). The guy with the lion is Mabu, different from monk 3 despite the similar costume. That's Halmi (grandmother) with the fan.

After the show I rode with 박상은 Bak Sang-un, as I already mentioned, to Yangju. Why Yangju? Because they were hosting the big meeting (and social) for the festival, with awards being given, a giant buffet, singing, dancing, drinking and speeches. I wanted desperately to go, and had felt very vindicated when I was invited (by 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli first, then later by Goseong Ogwangdae and Yangju Byeolsandae). However, it turned out to be less useful for interviews and contacts than I had been expecting. Although I had some chit-chats with people the atmosphere was not conducive to interviews with anyone I didn’t already know well, and I didn’t have a bunch of new questions to ask the people I already do know well, so it was more of an opportunity to build up good feelings than anything else. I am happy I got to go (and I think my exposure in the room of 25 tables each seating around 10 people, minus the twenty or thirty empty chairs spread around the room although most of them may have been occupied by people who were moving around) will in the long run help me out. I got hugs and handshakes and a lot of smiles. The awards were done by the time we got there and most of the speeches as well. The different groups took turns going up on stage and singing and dancing to the amusement of all. I sat with 김명하 Kim Myeongha from Songpa most of the time, there were only four of us, Kim Myeongha, 김학석 Kim Hakseok (National Human Treasure) and 서병무 Seo Byeongmu (and of course, me). Seo was drunk and trying to speak English, hard enough to understand when he’s not drunk, so I was glad he was mostly not next to me. When our turn came up, instead of singing Trot (old people like it), a cheesy 70s or 80s ballad, or like the hip Goseong Ogwangdae team, a pop song (CLON), Kim Hakseok sang without a karaoke music track. Honestly his timing and general ability was severely hampered by alcohol. The other three of us had to do back-up dance. That was HARD. He was singing a traditional song, but without any adherence to a beat. At least one Yangju friend (김순홍 Kim Sunhong who is their seamstress extraordinaire) and one Goseong friend (이재 훈 Yi Jaehun with the long hair) got up and helped us out. I have a lot of observations on the behavior of the groups and various dynamics I observed, but some are not so flattering so I’ll keep those off the public blog.

Kim Myeongha dropped me at a subway station. Everyone else (except Kim Myeongha and I and whoever had left already) were going to spend all night partying in the hostel Goseong had secured, and I was invited, but Karjam would have blown a gasket if I’d even mentioned it. I know it would have really helped my long term relationship especially with Goseong Ogwangdae people, but I cannot neglect Karjam that much and he does feel very traditionally about his wife staying out even as late as I did.

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