Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We Start Basic Motions (for the second week)

January 24th, 2010
I cannot emphasize enough how sweet these KNUA kids are. If you were a solid group of students all from one major, how would you feel is someone nearly 20 years older than you, with no real connection to your school was suddenly hanging around? But these kids—I haven't even asked and they've adjusted to making all major dishes either vegetarian or cooking the meat on the side. They're unfailingly polite and interested. They're helpful to my research, they explain things I don't understand carefully, they're an absolute credit to their families and to their university. Not one has any sort of diva-esque behavior that you might expect with kids from a performing arts department, yet they evince much more independent thought and behavior than many Korean college kids that I know. Last night 정운 Jeong-un and ONLY Jeong-un went and rehearsed the 개인무 individual dance she'd learned last week (말뚝이 Malddugi). 경진 Gyeongjin decided to go to the mini-mart (twenty minutes walk each way) at midnight. She didn't need someone to go with her. And they come up with quite individual stuff to say. I wait to see how individual their interviews will end up.

After breakfast we headed to the big hall, where we started with an opening ceremony again, much like the previous week. After that each group was told to present something (everyone presented songs) and the quality of the singing was just amazing, the 판소리 pansori specialist from the theatre troupe sang, as did 혜미 Haemi (I learned when interviewing her before lunch that she in fact started singing 민요 minyo under the tutelage of relatives who are 경기민요 Gyeonggi Minyo preservation association members when she was not yet in elementary school), and some of the other students presented a pop song by Girl's Generation (with movement). 동수 Dongsu sang as well. This week the (all of the?) other members of "The Gwangdae" showed up. This is a team headed by 대천 Daecheon but also including 창열 Changyeol and 영호 Yeongho, it used to include 고석진 Go Seokjin and perhaps others of the Goseong guys as well, but everyone gets busy and what not. At any rate, it's a traditional performing arts troupe, and these other members who have shown up are not preservation association members, but they do seem fairly conversant with the motions already, based on what I saw today. These members also sang.

After all that was done, we divided into two groups and each group did their basic motions, the theatre troupe made up the bulk of the other group. 이윤석 Yi Yunseok, the national human treasure, taught us with a lot of explanation, and his normal barking/shouting exclamations (which I think people just find interesting and fun after they get over the initial shock). One thing he said today that I think he's said before but I made special note of it is "신명은 불림타고 나온다" or "The joyful expression of feelings (shinmyeong) arrives via calling out the starting song (bullim)." Actually that's still a very rough translation, I know exactly what it means in Korean, but it's hard to express since shinmyeong is a very complex term and it's all very cultural. At any rate, when you start the basic motions (and all the other mask dance dramas have bullim, too) you call out some words to start, with 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae it's "산 좋고, 물 좋고 어절씨구 좋다." Which means roughly speaking "The mountain is good, the water is good, it's all good." So we have to call this out with proper accent (and the motions correspond with the accent—when the tone is rising up, our arms are rising) and then we begin the motion set. There is one other time during the basic motion set that there is bullim, at almost the end. "아이 좋다 아이 좋다 어절씨구 좋다." Or even more roughly speaking "Ah, it's good, ah, it's good, it's all good." But mind you this is a –very—exciting point in the dance, so it's basically when your motions are not enough of a celebration, when your chest is breaking with a need to express EVEN MORE than you can do through joyful dancing, then you are crying out (in concert with everyone else). It's a fairly amazing feeling, even more amazing when you do the basic motion set without a break 3 or 4 times in a row.

Lunch and then more dancing, again with Yi teaching us and then Dongsu practicing the motions. Dongsu always puts much more emphasis on motion and less on explanation, so we end up practicing a lot more times. Afterwards we had yoga again, the same teacher but he had us try to do some sort of lying down meditation thing, and I swear everyone fell asleep, it was pretty funny because at the end we all sat up, except two people, 만희 Manhee and 정운 Jeong'un, who just kept sleeping as the yoga teacher wrapped up the class.

After yoga I went to the market with 민지 Minji and 가은 Ga'eun, where we bought the supplies needed for the next two or three days worth of meals. I spent some of my own money to buy a few things to make the food for my team (tomorrow) just a little bit more special.

Back at our place almost everyone was in the men's room, reveling in the hot floor, wrapped up in blankets. As usual there was someone who wanted to see what was on the TV (in the unheated main room) and there were a few people assisting or at least talking with the cooking team. It was all very relaxing.

In the evening practice we followed along with Dongsu for an hour, then the groups split up. Changyeol led a group of the KNUA students through the basic motions while I made notes. "Stop being so soft and floaty. It's a male dance. Use your shoulders (dramatic shoulder demonstration)." He'd move through a sequence of motions, maybe only 5 or 6 motions, then explain, then lead them again.His motions were strongly extended at times and very distinct in their placement. He would stop and do it in slow motion to demonstrate exactly how it had to be done. "Don't do it roughly somewhere around here (gestures) do it exactly like this (demonstrates)." He uses a confident, strong and slightly projecting voice to teach, but it is also kind and respectful. Jeong'un asks a question, and he answers calmly and authoritatively. "This, too, be careful if it's the back of your hands up or not." "Do this exactly, extend your arms on the diagonal completely." "See here how the hand rotates?" "This motion has to be accented right here, fooo-ur." "This is big and strong. Seeeeee-ven." When he slaps his knee for one motion it seems so hard it'll leave a bruise. "Step forward on this." "Make sure you're running the previous motion into the next motion." He stops working in the circle and has them all face the mirror behind him. "The flavor will come out if you do it like this (demonstrates)." The students clap, thanking him for his teaching. And they laugh with his demonstrations. "Find the feeling" he explains, "no matter if you're doing this or playing ggwaenggwari."

He tells me, "this is stuff they need to hear, because they're professionals, I wouldn't teach ordinary people like this" when he rejoins me after leading the practice. Then he goes back to teaching them, but from the chair this time. "Spread out, use both hands. Move the shoulder, tuuuu, see-ven eight, one… ha! Hoot!" "All the way to the end of your fingers, you need to be dancing with all of it." He counts to show the accent for the students as they continue. "Straighten your back." "Look what you're doing." Then he laughs and grins with someone who I presume is doing what he wants, as he gets a big grin in return. "With strength! Use your shoulders! Straighten! Foooo-ur! That's what I taught you! To the end of your arms! That's it." He gets out of his chair again. "You really have to practice the jumping motion a lot; you'll never get it right, otherwise."

While Changyeol is teaching the KNUA students, Daecheon is supervising the members of "The Gwangdae" who aren't Goseong Ogwangdae guys already, and correcting their motions, just the three of them. When the lesson ends, the three line up and bow to him, all together. Seongbeom leads a group of five women who are really unfamiliar with the dance through the motions, with many exclamations of "that's the way." Across the room another teacher, 김재명 Kim Jaemyeong, is busy teaching a group of around fifteen students.

After the practice we had 뒤풀이 duipuli until late into the night at our place. First 솔기 Solgi, the graduate of KNUA who is with the theatre troupe came and we were all having 김치전 Kimchijeon and drinking either 막걸리 makgeolli or 소주 soju, later Changyeol showed up as well. I went to sleep when I got tired, but I gather that was several hours before the rest.

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