Saturday, 18 July 2015

Summer in Sinchon: Dancing, Singing and Sliding

It's been a season or two since I dropped by the Sinchon area. I got acquainted with this neighborhood during my early years in Seoul when tennis friends brought me to Sinchon for lunch after playing at the tennis courts of Sogang University, a Jesuit-run university that was visited by Pope Francis last year. 

This area around the Sinchon Station of Line 2 is popular to students since this is near some universities like Yonsei, Ewha Womans, Sogang, and Hong-ik. And this weekend, the Seodaemun District has set up a water slide right in the middle of the Yonsei-ro (Yonsei Street), which they closed down to make way for fun and performances.
The idea was to provide respite from this summer heat, and this water slide, which stretched from the first Starbucks across Nike Court until the second Starbucks in the neighborhood, was filled with kids and adults in swimwear, sunblock and inflatables, who all happily found a way to cool down, right in the middle of the street!
And while those having fun on the slide were busy soaking, those on 'dry land' were entertained by selected Korean non-verbal and musical performances, namely, The Painters: Hero, Fanta-Stick, Sa-Choom, and Nanta, which I have all seen before courtesy of my complimentary tickets from the Korea Tourism Organization.

The Painters: Hero
Last year, I recommended to my friend Vanji to bring her kids to watch The Painters: Hero because I was sure Ethan and Patrick would enjoy it. And they did! Today, those watching a segment performance of this show enjoyed as well. Here's a short clip. Today's performance was just a teaser where they featured their 'Michael Jackson' painting. During their regular performances, they have charcoal, painter on water, oil and other media that they use to create these interesting art pieces on stage. With music and digital images as background on stage, the whole experience of watching this type of performance is unique. If you happen to watch this show, try to volunteer up the stage. It should be worth your while.

The musicians and drummers of Fanta-Stick also took turns in drumming up excitement among the crowd. This performance is promoted as a live 'gugak' musical. 'Gugak' means traditional Korean music, but if you watch the performance, you'd also hear recorded contemporary and modern music. It's a story about a man and a woman banished from the heavens for not having been able to take care of a sacred drum and flute, with the latter ending up lost and later found in a car repair shop somewhere in Seoul. This show is a mix of traditional music, dancing and slapstick comedy. It was actually fun taking photographs today of Fanta-Stick performers; the showmanship was there, and so was the synchronized movements and energy.
I have watched Sa-Choom early this year, and their short performance today was just a segment of their 85-minute dance musical with about 12 dancers. Right in the middle of Sinchon, they wowed the crowd especially with the bboy stunts and a mix of modern jazz, tango, and perhaps a few steps from Dancing 9 and some k-pop girl bands. Sa-Choom's theater is at Jongno, below the VIPS buffet restaurant, where you can always grab dinner before you go down to watch it. The show is mixed with some mime, slapstick comedy sketch and the required audience participation. Today, the performers went down from the stage and tried to engage the crowd on dry land. Luckily, they left the kids alone who were on the pool with their inflatables. 

And as the last to perform, the cooks of Nanta with all their vegetable-chopping in their kitchen reminded everyone that it was probably time for dinner. Ha-ha-ha!  Anyone who's into cooking would be able to relate to Nanta because everything in the kitchen comes to life with all these cooks: the pans, the utensils, the vegetables, seasonings and those very sharp knives!  Nanta's venues are actually in Myeongdong and at Chungjeongno Station.  If you're staying at Myeongdong, it's the most convenient venue for you; although the performances at Chungjeongno Station usually have Rush Ticket discounts. Nanta is probably the most popular of all the Korean performances with everyone I know wanting to see this show in Seoul.

And as for those standing in line for their turn, I wondered how long it actually took for one to wait until its time to swoosh down the slide with the help of an inflatable, running water, and gravity. But no matter how long the wait was, from the looks on their faces, it was worth the wait and the entrance fee.

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