25 August 2008

Traditional Kayo?

Piliksu was back in town on business, so we met up with him in Seoul this weekend. Our cousin had recommended that we check out Korea House in Chungmuro. If I remember the brochure correctly, Korea House is a former residence that has been transformed into a popular tourist destination that allows visitors to view traditional Korean architecture, arts, and cuisine.

Korea House offers both a buffet and sit-down sampling of royal cuisine.
Most visitors opt for the dinner and show package, but after seeing that dinner costs between 80,000-100,000 won, we decided to just check out the show. The show is 35,000 won regardless if you purchase dinner or not.

The show features an array of traditional musical and dance performances, pre-Inki Kayo.
Unfortunately, I don't have any photos or video of the show. The reason being... I fell asleep.

I'm going to be honest. I just straight up disrespected the culture of the Motherland, and slept through nearly half of the show. In my defense, I had been up since 6:30 AM. Also, the music was just... not my cup of bori-cha. You know what I'm saying?

All of the dances were accompanied by a traditional Korean "orchestra" which consisted of various percussion, string, and horn instruments. One horn in particular sounded like a snake charmer's pipe, only sharper. I think this horn may have contributed to my compulsion to nap.

I was able to catch the second half of the show, but a part of me kind of wishes that I carried on with my nap...

I was actually awakened by the fluttering of the Korean fan dancers. It was all very glamorous; almost like a Las Vegas show, but with more clothes. This dance was probably my favorite performance.

I also saw a disturbing traditional mask dance about a farmer who first stalks then wins over a village maiden. Then, this fancy nobleman comes along and woos the woman away from the humble farmer. The nobleman manages to win the woman with the clink of his gold coins. The farmer runs off stage, allowing the nobleman to get the woman with child. After giving birth, the woman runs away with shame (or terror, I'm not sure), leaving the man with the baby. The man proudly holds up the baby to the audience (a replica of himself), all "Circle of Life" style. I think I may have grossly misunderstood the tale. At least, I hope so.

The skit was followed by a somber funeral dance involving a scarf, which reminded me of the time I went with my college roomie to midnight mass and this woman in a hanbok performed a "traditional Korean dance." She basically pranced around the altar with a blue scarf. I kept thinking she was going to singe her hanbok on one of the candles. At the end of the performance my roommate looked over to me and was all, "Uh, is that really a traditional Korean dance?" I quickly replied, "Heck no. That ain't Korean." After watching the funeral dance I now realize that the woman's dance was in fact Korean. Oops. My bad.

I was really looking forward to the percussion performances, but was a little disappointed. I think the musicians were picked more for their tiny waists and bright smiles than their percussive talents. I've seen Korean drum performances before, so I was expecting much more excitement.

The show at Korea House is valuable in that it allows you to see a variety of traditional Korean dances and instruments in one sitting, but I suspect that these performances are more Disneyland than Carnegie Hall.

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