"Fairy Tales of Flowers" - for me, the title brings to mind beautiful fields, flying fairies, flowers nodding in the breeze. It does not make me think of the difficult journey when descending into Hell to save someone from never-ending torture...but that was what the most recent show I saw here in South Korea was about!
Thanks to a 3rd K-Performance Supporters opportunity, and the great team over at the Korea Tourism Organization, Rob and I were able to take the 50-minute train ride north to the Uijeongbu Arts Center to see "Fairy Tales of Flowers".
A very nice facility just a quick cab ride away from the train station, exit 2/3.
There are two halls within the building, and we were in the smaller, more intimate one.
From the program: "Fairy Tales of Flowers" is a story of the unique Oriental sentiment, 'filial duty,' and its motif lies in the western mythology of Orpheus and the similar Oriental mythology about magnolia Buddhist monk.
The story unfolds with non-verbal performances (using traditional Korean dance, B-boy, Taekwondo, and multi-media depictions) to express the Oriental version of Hell. From the event program pictures below, you can see the six layers depicted: The Gates, the Hell of burning pot, the River of death, the Hell of Judgment, the Hell of Divulgence, and the Hell of Poison Snakes.
The translated synopsis from the program: "A world of chaos by greed and desire of mankind. Abandoned by his mother for his abnormal appearance, Mokryeon has a weird dream. The setting of his dream is hell swarming with snakes. A woman burning in fire cries out Mokryeon's name. Mokryeon finds a shaman who can read dreams, and learns that the person in the dream is his mother.
To rescue his mother, Mokryeon heads to hell with Shaman and passes through hell of fire and hell of water. When Shaman falls in water, Mokryeon cuts off his own arm to rescue Shaman. When they barely escape hell of blade, Mokryeon and Shaman feels affection for each other, but they are continued to be pursued. Can Mokryeon and Shaman pass through the challenges of hell and meet his mother?"
Well, I can tell you, yes, they find the mother and free her from hell - and she is reborn as a baby for them to raise. (Now that is certainly a healthy sense of duty and forgiveness - to travel through hell to save and raise someone who threw you away in a river...)
Overall, this was an enjoyable performance - the costumes were beautiful and the dancers themselves were excellent. Some of the transitions of music for each style of dance was a bit abrupt, and a few of the multi-media backgrounds were a bit bizarre, but it always amazes me how the K-Performances mix traditional with new in such interesting ways. Never before living in Korea had I imagined mixing a traditional Korean fan dance with B-boy (breakdancing) and taekwondo (martial arts).
Rehearsal pictures from the event program.
This was the first event I had been able to attend at the Uijeongbu Arts Center, but I was happy to see a quick snack bar, as well as a sushi restaurant below.
For anyone in Korea, here is the mapped location - the center's current performance schedule can be found on their website: https://www.uac.or.kr/uac.php