November 19th, 2010
In the morning I went to the history class at SNU. Again, she put me to sleep. I think she’s super knowledgeable but a hot room, cold day, blinds drawn, lights low, slide show… added to Professor Bak’s really mellow voice, it just was not a good situation. I just have not been able to sleep much since early in the week.
After class I ran errands, came home and in the evening Karjam and I went to the second in a series of three nights of performances at the 중요무형문화재전수회관의 풍류극장 Intangible Cultural Asset Training Center’s Pungryu Theatre. The series was focusing on transmission within families. It was really amazing, but I wish we’d been able to see Thursday’s show. Friday was also quite special, with four acts. The first act was 신상철 Shin Sangcheol and his wife 선영숙 Seon Yeongsuk performing with (among others) their two sons 신현식 Shin Hyeonshik and 신현석 Shin Hyeonseok. They performed several pieces, the first was 가곡 gagok but I must admit that I find Hilary’s assistant 기쁨 Gibbeum’s gagok to be more appealing. The highlight was when the family (plus several others) played 시나위 shinawi. Since my research is on transmission, this was a wonderful example of transmission to see. The father was playing 단소 danso and 해금 haegeum, the mother played 가야금 gayageum and the two sons played 아쟁 ajaeng and haegeum.
The second act was not one I was looking forward to, because I am so sick of seeing 살풀이 salpuri (a dance rooted in shamanism) and 승무 seungmu (a dance rooted in Buddhism). They are performed too much, but I felt that the two performers, a mother and daughter 김복련 Kim Boknyeon and 신현숙 Shin Hyeonsuk, had a slightly new/different interpretation. In particular the daughter’s interpretation of seungmu felt fresh, usually we see two styles: the style perpetuated by 이매방 Yi Maebang (who actually performed on Thursday) and the style of 한영숙 Han Yeongsuk (now deceased), sometimes called the 경기 Gyeonggi style. Many dance historians insist that both dances were originally choreographed by 한성준 Han Seongjun, who as you might guess is the father of Han Yeongsuk. The two performers we saw are registered for the -regional- arts of salpuri and seungmu for the Gyeonggi region, so it's reasonable to guess that they are preserving the Han Yeongsuk-ryu, yet I've seen other performers of that ryu and the dance (particularly for seungmu) was somewhat different. The pamphlet information on their performance, although written by 이병옥 Yi Byeongok, one of my Songpa Sandae Noli performers, a dance historian professor, did not get into the extreme politics of ryu. (Extreme politics indeed, as regional performers will get a smaller stipend than nationally registered performers, less status, fewer paying students, fewer performance opportunities, and if indeed some can argue that their performance is the more 'authentic' one... well, you understand). [Advertisement for Korea featuring a seungmu dancer. It's just really cool looking, won't give you an idea of the dance, though.][Just a couple minutes of salpuri]
The reason I went to the show, though, was to see the third act, 박동매 Bak Dongmae. She had learned from her mother, the late 조공례 Jo Gongnae. I had a chance to meet Bak in 2008 and interview her, I was very impressed with her attitude and I love her singing voice. She is the National Human Treasure for 남도들노래 Namdo Deulnorae, a type of work (farming) song from the southern corner of Korea such as her home, Jindo Island. Bak’s performance was great, with three other women singing chorus verses and they acted out various tasks of carding and spinning as well as transplanting and weeding the rice seedlings as they sang.
The last act was another mother/daughter pair, 박경자 Bak Gyeongja and 김명이 Kim Myeongi. Their art (both of them are certified in the same art, which wasn’t the case in all of these families) is 삼설양굿 Samseolyanggut, a shamanic ceremony from 순천 Suncheon and registered for protection as a regional (South Jeolla Province) art, not for national protection. Karjam and I watched this show for nearly an hour as they performed the ceremony, (which was, like many gut, quite bizarre with knives and shoveling food into mouths, and sexual behavior, cross-dressing and well... the things that society usually sweeps under the rug) but as it grew closer to 11 and I became more concerned that we’d miss the last bus and have to take a subway home (and as I found the gut more and more repetitive) we finally left before they’d finished. We were already some of the longest remaining audience members. Packed at the beginning, apparently much of the audience had come for the first two acts, by the time the third act started nearly half the audience had left.