WOW! It’s been awhile- I have been busy and had intermittent internet service, which I hope has now been resolved with a fixed Ethernet cable.
So I have been to a few interesting events since I last wrote, starting with a Traditional Arts Festival. I went with Yosefina, which was very cool, since she could explain some of the meanings to me. We saw music, dance, plays and tightrope. Yosefina told me the first artist we stopped to see is a Korean national treasure. The older gentleman was performing a comedy about love.It ended with a performance of the most well-known Korean folk song, Ariyang:
We then stopped at the dance stage, where two woman dressed as cranes were performing a modern-traditional fusion. It was slowly, deliberately and beautifully performed and followed by a “Wish Dance”.
The Wish Dance is about expressing the burden of Han, which can wear you down and make you sick. I will do my best to explain Han in my imperfect way. Korea is called “Hanguk”, the language is “Hangul” and the people are “Hangukin”. Han is integral to Korean culture. Han is subtle expressed, deep emotion-sometimes it is said that foreigners have no Han, because they are very forward or open with their feelings. In English a common greeting is “How are you?”, which is not the case in Korea. Korean friends would more likely read the more subtle signals without asking for explanations.
Yosefina also said Han related to Korea having been invaded and occupied, throughout its 5,000 year History. Most recently, under Japanese occupation Korean people had to learn Japanese and take Japanese names. These invasions caused repressions of will, of true expression. Han is in one sense these repressed, strong, emotions. Yosefina wanted to emphasis that Han, while it can be unhealthy in its extremes, is also a valued part of the Korean character.
In the Wish Dance, the dancer is expresses her unfulfilled wishes, and the village experiences the catharsis as well. The dance was moving, as was the accompanying music. The dancer’s long sleeves were moved gracefully, assisted by a set of drumsticks held in her hands. She approached the drum towards the end of the dance to play for a dramatic finish.
The next dance would have been only been played at court during the Joseon Era, but is now shared with everyone.
We finished up watching tightrope walkers-first a Korean performer followed by a Russian couple that was invited to perform with some other international folk music, dance and performance groups. All in all it was a great day.