Monday, September 29, 2014

Fairy Tales of Flowers

"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:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Day of Korean Culture and the 2014 Asian Games

I had a FABULOUS Saturday in Korea this past week, thanks in large part to the great folks over at the Korea Tourism Organization.  A large group of foreigners were asked to participate in a tour to the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, as well as various cultural experiences and I was very happy to participate. True to from, I snapped quite a few photos (give them time to load!) and will try to give you a good run down of the day, so sit back and relax for a slightly longer blog post.

I started out early and treated myself to a quick coffee and donut at the newly opened Krispy Kreme around the corner by Namyeong Station - look at these tempting, sugary delights!  I had a simple glazed, since I was headed to the subway, but I think I'll have to go back eventually.  ;)

As I exited the train at Jonggak Station (Exit 5), I noticed this informative display about Korean bells - beautiful craftsmanship.

I headed over to the main headquarters of the Korea Tourism Organization, just across from the Chenggyecheon Stream.  The main entrance is actually in the plaza and leads under the building.

Inside there are displays about K-Pop, Medical Tourism (a HUGE market for that here), Korean culture, and a gift shop.

For those who live in or visit Seoul, they offer FREE Korean Cultural Experience event during the third week of each month featuring Korean crafts and wearing Hanbok.

After checking in, I had some extra time and found more interesting art along the street.

Snow White and a Dwarf, among front of a seafood restaurant?

A duck boat...


The Chenggyecheon Stream starts nearby, so I headed over for a relaxing walk along this popular reclaimed stream in the heart of the city. I walked the portion by the red "You Are Here" bubble on this map.

I had a visitor land nearby as I strolled.

I happened upon this spot on the trail and tossed in a 100 won coin for good measure - it landed squarely in the center of the target and earned "oohs" from those nearby.

The art didn't stop on the street - the walls beneath the overpasses were adorned, as well.

It was also interesting to note the escape ladders and warnings along the way...glad it wasn't raining!

And because Koreans love their technology, there's a free standing charging pad for wireless devices...but only at night.

I'll have to bring Michael back here at some point and test out his rock hopping skills.

I made it across safely.  :)

As I headed back up to street level, a random parade was going by for a nearby street festival.

The musicians were happy to pose for me (most of them).

Finally it was time to board the tour bus (what a full morning, already!) and head over to the Asian Games.  The three seal mascots are adorable and each have a meaning: 
Vichuon = light; Chumuro = dance; and Barame = wind.

The main stadium is quite impressive.

While on the bus, we were treated to a quick lunch of kimbap.

Our first stop was at an outer stadium for a popular Asian sport know as sepaktakraw.

As you can see from the below action shot, this is not a game for anyone who is out of shape - it's a mix of volleyball and soccer, with some aerial antics thrown in for good measure.

I managed to get a pretty good video clip of the Men's Korea vs. Singapore match  - there's the usual serve, bump, set, and spike - but all done with their feet! As the audio will tell, it gets exciting.


After watching a few exciting matches, we headed over to the main stadium and expo area, for some fun with the mascots, a trip to the gift shop (couldn't come home without some game swag!), and some cultural workshops.

In case you really wanted the athletic experience, the water vending machines had you covered.

My little group headed into the cultural experience tent for some hands-on fun, making mandu (Korean dumplings).

I had enough left for a tasty snack on the ride home.

There were also displays of temple food and kitchen spaces.

And this lovely paper lantern.

Outside in the plaza, there were these random newspaper dinosaurs - which thrilled most adults and terrified the small kids they crept up to.  Pretty funny - I think Michael MIGHT have liked them.

After a full day, it was dinner time - dakgalbi while seated on the floor.

I was happy with the spicy chicken meal - and glad I didn't have to try one of these guys!

Finally, we ended the night with a 30-minute outdoor performance of Nanta at the stadium.  A fun Korean-Performance show centered around cooking and rhythm.

What a great day! Such a variety of things seen/done and one for the memory book!  
Thank you, KTO!

picture courtesy of KTO