March 28th, 2011
I met up with my friend Hengyi Shr and her mother at 5, brought them home for dinner and then had to run out to a class at KOUS. The class, titled "진옥섭의 춤 이야기/Jin Okseopui Chum Iyagi" which is sort of like "Talking about Dance with Jin Okseop" or "Jin Okseop's Dance Talk/Story" was heavily advertised in the sorts of places where I see things. There was an article in the newspaper, even. The four classes, all on Monday nights, cost 50,000 won which I thought was a fairly reasonable fee. Also, I have already constructed a list of questions to ask Jin about the scheduling of traditional performances at KOUS (he's the artistic director). In my mind the class wouldn't be too large and he'd definitely notice me and I could ask him to do an interview before the class next week, or even the week after that. However when I arrived and signed in I found out that there were 118 registered students!
I went upstairs to get my seat and promptly ran into 안대천 Ahn Daecheon from 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae and 세정 Sejeong, 허창열 Heo Changyeol's girlfriend. A few minutes later Changyeol came in and after that a friend of Daecheon's who is a performer of 진도 씻김굿 Jindo Sshitgimgut (a shamanic ritual). It turned out that right now there is a grad class at K-Arts (I have finally realized that KNUA prefers to be called K-Arts which I guess is about as good of a name as KNUA, anyway) being taught by Jin and instead of attending class they have the option of coming to this lecture series instead. It was nice to be able to sit with friends during the lecture.
The lecture was somewhat of a let-down. I felt like he hadn't properly prepared. He was meandering and not particularly brilliant as he touched on many topics but not the ones that were listed for lecture one on the advertising material. He will undoubtedly get less attendance next week, which is a shame. He had an opportunity to teach something really important (and he even touched on why an educated audience is important for the quality of performance, for the feeling of the performers, etc) but didn't do it. He name dropped a lot about all the interesting people he knows and told little amusing stories about time with them. These people were almost all important performers, of course. But we learned more about their attitude towards coming to Seoul from the countryside to perform than we did about –dance-. He made a lot of jokes, but I didn't come for comedy, I came for a deeper understanding of traditional dance. He spent a while being very essentializing by talking about China and Korea and the West—all with MUCH too broad a brush. And he twice (at least an hour apart) discussed how hard he'd had to work to popularize Korean dance and run around to plead with the media to run stories in the paper etc. in order to actually get an audience. This was part of the general over-arching theme of "I am very important to the dance world in Korea."
Daecheon, who was next to me, looked very drowsy. Sejeong was on the other side and she was writing notes back and forth with Changyeol. They said they'd heard everything he'd said already, and that it was all in his book, as well, which they'd had to read at some point. Many audience members laughed at his jokes, though. The audience was predominantly female and mostly pushing 50 and in upper-class attire. Yep, it was a lecture for self-development of housewives.
By the way, the only joke that was funny was when he was characterizing each type of dance in Korea and he ends with "and modern dance? I feel sorry for them, they don't even have clothes!" The upside (besides seeing Daecheon, Changyeol and Sejeong)? Well, I understood -almost- all the Korean (well over 85% and when I couldn't follow it was because I lacked a couple really important vocab words), slightly making me feel better after my frustrations with that darn translating job.