Sunday, June 21, 2009

hahoe village traditional mask dance

19 april 2009~ ANDONG MASK DANCE

im finally getting around to writing about this unique, colorfully-captivating event.
the location is 하회마을 (hahoe village); the time, around 4pm on sunday afternoons.
it is a traditional mask performance. in the past, the dance was performed only every few years and one the lunar new year. it is both a shaman ritual to please the local goddess and drive away evil spirits and a form of entertainment which all of the villagers would take part in, praying for good harvest, prosperity, and peace. i will do my best to give you a run-down of the story as it plays out in my pictures and, if i can, reveal some of the satirical irony behind the characters and scenes enveloping them.

[the arena; before the performance drums and a flute are played, and these continue throughout each scene - props to the flute player for his lung stamina]

[DANCE 1 - this is the opening dance (called 무동마당 - mudong madang); the woman being carried on the shoulders of another dancer is kakshi, representing the local goddess. she asks the people for offerings for which in return they will receive blessings and wealth]

[DANCE 2 - in this dance, 추지마당 (chuji madang), two chuji (lions) appear and begin dancing and play-fighting; the female wins, signifying an abundant harvest for the year. then 초랭이 (choraengi) - the meddler - comes in and chases them away, representing driving away demons and evil spirits]

[초랭이 (choraengi) - the meddler]

[DANCE 3 - 백종마당 (baekjong madang) - in this dance the butcher (baekjong) enters with a knife and axe and dances by himself for a while until he notices a big, brown bull lumber in. they dance together for a while, and then the butcher slams his axe into the bulls neck and cuts out the dead bull's heart and testicles which he then offers to sell to the spectators. (right before the axe falls, the bull starts urinating like mad, as you'll notice from the picture i took.) when no one buys them, he dances alone for a while until the sound of thunder frightens him off the stage. my guide pamphlet explained that the dance symbolizes the ruling class's authoritative attitude toward sexuality, removing the sexual taboo.]

[DANCE 4 - 할미마당 (halmi madang) - halmi, the old widow, comes in carrying a hand loom. she sits down and weaves for a while, then gets up and dances by herself for a while, bemoaning her tale of ill-fortune: she was widowed only three days after her wedding when she was fourteen. granny ambles about asking for donations; the dance represents the sufferings of the common people and the conflicts between classes. i was really struck by the grace of the performer. all of the dancers, in accordance with tradition, were men, and this one really captured the movements and body language of a laboring, old woman - the korean grandmother-age character is uniquely heart-warming and saddening at the same time. whenever ive gone out into the countryside and met with the older ladies, they have this endearing, sorrowful, but steadfast persona that strikes me deeply every time i encounter it.]

[kakshi comes in again, asking for more offerings with the old woman]

[DANCE 5 - 파계성마당 (pagyesung madang) - a young woman (부네 - bune) comes in and dances by herself for a while. she looks around to make sure nobody is around (above) and then squats down to take a leak. right then, a wandering monk notices her and becomes aroused (below). he dances with her and then runs away, carrying her on his back. choraengi (the meddler) sees them as they head off the stage.]

[the monk]
[the wandering monk examining and sniffing the patch of dirt where bune relieved herself. the dance criticizes the religious corruption of the time.]

[choraengi (right) runs into 이매 (imae - the fool, left) and tells him excitedly about what he saw. imae continues to grin stupidly and choraengi shrugs his shoulders saying, 'it's a funny world'. they dance together and exit.]

[DANCE 6 - 양반 & 손비 마당 (yangban & sonbi madang) - the aristocrat (yangban, right) and the scholar (sonbi, left) enter boasting to each other about their knowledge and status. choraengi (the meddler) mocks them and they lose face. then paekchong (the buther) comes in and offers to sell the bull testicles to them. at first they think it's indecent, but when paekchong tells them it will enhance their male vitality, they fight over buying them. halmi (the widow) comes in and laughs at them, then tries to reconcile between them. then everyone dances together joyfully. the purpose of this dance is to bring harmony to the social classes - the ruling class reconsiders its place, and the commoners are able to let off some steam.]

[afterwards all of the dancers come back in, taking their masks off, and everyone cheers as they prance around]

and there you have it!
that's pretty much it, though i'm sure i missed a lot of the subtleties. i think the dance, more than anything else i saw in hahoe village, shed light on a traditional korea.
really amazing stuff.

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