Monday, April 4, 2011

Jin Okseop Lecture on Korean Dance (#2)

April 3rd, 2011
I worked on the computer all day, for a few hours at Chans Bros, the rest of the day at home.

April 4th, 2011
Stopped by Yonsei campus and printed chapter 2 of my dissertation so I can look at it on paper for once. It's about 90 pages long, in three separate files right now. I hope I can clarify and edit it well enough to share soon. I was in the neighborhood so that I could meet my friend 회정 Hoijung to help her with a presentation she doesn't actually need my help with, but perhaps prep goes faster with my company!

After the meeting with Hoijung I decided I didn't have enough time to hurry home and then hurry to KOUS so I went directly there and talked with one of the workers there to get some background info on their operations before I talk to 진옥섭 Jin Okseop directly. Today class was much better because I had a small epiphany, talking with 세정 Sejeong helped me to develop another idea I've been thinking through and because Jin Okseop made a point that is really important. In fact Jin only talked for about fifteen minutes then showed a video that was at least an hour long.
1) Jin's important point: In Korean dance in the past, like the dance that was most commonly trained in the art's academies for 기생 gisaeng called 권범 gwonbeom, it was common to see fairly large groups of artists put on stage at once, after they'd trained together extensively and could match movements to each other well. But in the modern era when it's so hard to get a group of people together, or get them together often enough to dance as one, these types of dances rapidly lost members and were adjusted to become solo dances. In addition the solo dances became more popular and commonly performed.
2) Talking with Sejeong: it is common to see really old dancers put on stage. In the video we saw a woman with osteoporosis so bad that she had a huge hump in her back. We also saw people who were shaking as they danced and a guy who's balance had in large part deserted him. But Sejeong confirmed that we don't see musicians of similar age on stage. I asked her why not since obviously with an instrument like 가야금 gayageum or 해금 haegeum there shouldn't be much physical limitation on it. She said that the audience forgives the old dancers for shaking but they can't tell the age of the old musicians or tell if they are shaking when their tone is affected, so the musicians won't do go on stage once their performance is compromised.
3) My own small epiphany relates to the ongoing analysis of the age of dancers on the Korean stage and it may actually be something I've figured out before, I was just figuring it out again in more depth and scribbling in the dark. In brief: in addition to the other many reasons to watch an old dancer or for an old dancer to go on stage, there is the desire of the audience for the authentic –folk- dance, for the person trained in the village who is the embodied connection with a near mythical past that they've mostly lost in the modern age, and that watching that person who physically holds the 'old' knowledge and 'old' ways may be more rewarding (emotionally) than watching the young and beautiful dancer who after 5 or 10 years of practice should –theoretically- be able to do what the old dancer can do. 

Comments welcome, of course.

And, super cool thing, 장사익 Jang Sa'ik (one of my favorite singers) was sitting directly behind me in class today. I gave him a bow big enough to acknowledge him but not intrusive enough that he'd have to engage me in conversation. At first (since his knees literally were 3 inches behind my seat) I was a bit distracted that he was there, but having 안대천 Ahn Daecheon on one side of me and Sejeong on the other, I got over it. 


    New Kpop Bella cover En Vogue "Don't Let Go". What's always interested me is the Korean energy combined with talent and mimicry, blended with the cultural and historical uniqueness that is Korean. I first witnessed this in Korean cover bands in Vietnam 1968 and it stuck.

  2. They've got pretty good voices, but I just don't see what's Korean about it, other than their physical bodies. I feel as though tracks like this are abandoning any sort of cultural or historical uniqueness-- not that most K-pop doesn't do this in my mind, but these ladies with their -all English- song have just taken it a step too far for me to find it interesting anymore.

    The thing is that stuff like hip-hop in Korean actually is sort of unique in that these groups include rap that is predominantly the same attitude and theme you find in ballads- primarily, love. There is none of that "I'm going to take a gun and blow your skanky head off you &$$^%*&^^# whore" sort of attitude in Korean music and that, to me, does reflect cultural uniqueness-- it's interesting, right? But these ladies... the only unique thing I see is that they're a Korean group and the members can actually sing-- since that's a bit (if not totally) unusual.