Monday, October 4, 2010

A Very Educational Bongsan Talchum Class


October 4th, 2010
I went hiking with Hoijung after lunch and got home just in time to get ready to go to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class. 원 중 Won Jung is a total ball of nerves. He must have said twenty times “I just wish the audition was already finished, no matter the results.” The two-day first round of auditions starts on Wednesday and finishes Thursday. I gave him my phone number and told him I expected a text message after he finished with an evaluation of how well he thought he’d done. This window into the application process to arts university for traditional performance has been an unexpected benefit of meeting him, and I expect that my eventual dissertation will incorporate something about Won Jung and the other students preparing for this audition.

Class was low attendance, with one new guy who has previously studied elsewhere (with a Bongsan Talchum member ranked below 김은주 Kim Eunju), a guy who showed back up after a serious absence but with few others. The highlight of class was when Kim Eunju explained the 대사 daesa (in this case a monologue) of 3먹중 (the 3rd dark-faced monk). Although I’ve almost memorized this daesa, perhaps because of how she explained it, I found it really educational. Seven monks (the 1st monk has no daesa) all speak on different topics, the third monk describes an amazing area with waterfalls (comparing the waterfall to those on a famous mountain in China which people knew of through reading poetry) and how the light shimmers in the air and finishes with how the pounding of the water on rocks is like a good sound for dancing. So I began wondering if the movements correspond with the daesa, and then through talking with Kim Eunju came to understand that until shortly before Bongsan Talchum was registered with the government the daesa, dance solo and outfits of the 8 monks would change around depending on who decided to go in which order and which daesa they wanted to give. So the yellow outfit could be worn by any of the 8 monks, and did not have to be on the 3rd monk, and the 3rd monk’s solo did not have to include jumping into the air-- the yellow outfit could be worn by the 8th monk, while the 5th monk did the jumping solo and the 2nd monk did the daesa now done by the 3rd monk… of course the daesa was also more malleable, and Kim Eunju said it was often much longer in the past. Things were standardized so that all the fabulous (and fairly poetic) language in the daesa would definitely be used, and one daesa and one dance solo were fixed to one particular monk so that there was no longer a situation of one person choosing the best daesa, and best dance solo and then always hogging both for himself; now that there were officially 8 fixed dances and 7 fixed daesa, everyone was responsible for learning all 8 and advanced members had a responsibility to teach all 8 to junior members.

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