May 08, 2011

over your head... and in your face!

May 5th is a very important day in Korea. It is Children's Day and no, that is not a made up holiday. It is an actual federal holiday, and everybody has the day off. Parents are supposed to (and most actually do) spend the whole day playing with their kids. 

Before the holiday, I took the oppertunity to play some basketball (May 4th) while playing, I fooled around with my camera. I was toying with my shutter speeds, and I have to admit, I was rather impressed with the results (pictured right, and below).

The following afternoon (Children's day) myself and my coworkers headed out to Hangang Park for the start of the Hi Seoul Festival. This is a bi-annual event in Seoul, I posted a picture of the fall event last year in my year in pictures blog post. 
The festival doesn't really take a lot of time to celebrate Korean traditions, it is mostly like a fringe festival. The street performers (pictured above and below) stand testiment to this, they are all decked out in pink attire, and body paint. They also did not speak, they communicated through beeps, yelps and grunts. From what I could tell their goal was to freak people out. They seemed to thrive on shrieks from the crowd, and the Korean's were very willing to oblige. Three performers walked around the crowd (somewhat) normally, one slinked around on stilts (above right), and one crawled around on his hands. If the first four didn't get you to freak out, the guy on his hands would creep up, and shriek. Being the size of a Korean child, he had a great ability to break into people's proximity bubbles without their knowledge.

While I was taking some pictures, the performers got really close. I was not like the Koreans, and I didn't scream, quiver, or run away, even when they tried to smack me (pictured above)

In the evening the festival had a free outdoor performance. The show was called 'Rainbow Drops' and the choreographers are from Spain. I say choreographers because the performers are all Korean. The group recruited a whole bunch of Korean volunteers to perform in their show. The first spectacle in the performance was a giant metal wheel that was suspended above the crowd (pictured below left). Then they put the wheel on the ground and the volunteers/performers (V/Ps, as they will now be lovingly refered to) ran inside the wheel like gerbils, and rolled around, all while surrounded by cheering observers (below right).

 The second act, and in my opinion the highlight of the show, was when the V/Ps were strung up and dangled above the audience. At first, it was extremely eerie watching them being raised into the crowd. With my vantage point, behind a tree, it looked like the V/Ps were being hung (pictured below left). They also seemed to play that fact up by looking like ragdolls as the process went on. 

 The performers didn't lay lifeless for their whole stint in the air. They came to life and pulled off some simple manouvers. It was very strange, and impressive to watch them do jumping jacks (right), and throw streamers onto the crowd (above right), all while hanging in mid air.

The grand finale had fireworks launch in behind the performers as they were moved back towards the stage (pictured right, & below). It was an amazing sight to behold as the V/Ps dangled with fireworks erupting and lighting up the night sky behind them. A spectacular end to an interesting holiday. 
(more photos of the can be found on my Flickr page)

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