written by Francine Dulong
So after writing the last blog post I realized that it was a pretty hefty piece of writing and potentially a bit much for one sit down - for me and for readers! As one of my favourite professor warns - 'make yourself a big cup of tea' if you read the post below for Week 1. I blame the awesome and sensory experience of Seoul for my descriptive overload :)
With that being said, I will attempt to write a post each day documenting the rehearsal process for the remainder of the trip, hopefully making it a more tasty morsel for your neural digestion. And that brings us to Day 6...
This morning Bora taught us what I like to call the 'Dance of 100 shakes' - a warm up technique from her repertoire of energy training. Essentially, its the bone rattle warm up where you stand with feet hip width apart and shake from the shoulders to ease out tension. But THIS version gets you to shake your head, shoulders, solar plexus, groin/hips, knees and foot muscles 100 TIMES EACH! Breath is super important and you have to try to keep relaxed with intention (Bora kept placing our arms and hands out to the front). The idea is that once you have also done this laying on the floor with your legs and arms in the air shaking your feet and hands, you can lay back and be in much better touch with your pulse points along the front of your body. Bora lightly touched the hollow of my throat, my sternum/solar plexus, my belly button and about 3 fingertips below that to get me to pay particular attention to my heart beat there. "Do you feel it? Are you warm?" Bora looks at me with sympathy in her eyes for the last sentence in Korean and Haeweon translates: when you are tired, this helps your energy flow.
The jet lag seems to be hitting me in reverse.
With our hearts beating strongly and my mind significantly more awake, we practiced Ganggangsullae and learned a new song - Jindo Arirang. This song is much more complex, with an undulating melody and difficult rhythms. We will have to practice a bit harder!
Sound play - the literal and the abstract
Jongim and Kyunghwa joined us for the afternoon and we caught Jongim up on all the game work and discussion from Day 4. We had a great discussion about the explosion in development and population/building expansion that happened in Seoul in the 60/70's after the Korean War (Haeweon and I had visited the Seoul History Museum the day before). They informed me that although traditional Korean houses are subsidized by the government, most Koreans view houses as disposable, like the packaging that your coffee comes in at the shops. This contrasted with the stress that the company feels because they have to renew their rent contracts every 2 years. I mentioned that we should explore this tension in rehearsal this week.
We also discussed how similar the Pansori performer is to the bardic and storytelling traditions of the UK and Canada and how they could act as a guide in a promenade style performance. Then the complication of our venue came up, as we still haven't nailed down a space for our show case! The classic question, does the space determine the show or do we squeeze what we come up with into the space? Do to our limited budget I think we will adapt to whatever happens - its all a matter of timing.
The rest of rehearsal was a play session with instruments around the question - what does building a house sound like? We explored soundscapes with basic and traditional percussion instruments from last week and then started to add our voices. The play became more abstract as we created the sound of light, plants, laughter, music, cold colored rooms, warm colored rooms, small rooms, big rooms, crowded rooms and rooms with single occupants. We even had a go at making sounds for materials that we make houses out of, like wood, concrete and mud. I really enjoyed this work - even though it wasn't as movement based as I am used to, working with professional musicians around sound is always a pleasure. Bora and Kyunghwa found the abstract concepts challenging but enjoyed the process of discovering what their voices could despite that. Conversely, Jongim really enjoyed the dynamics and freedom of our voices improvising and found that getting the instruments to be in time musically was difficult. We had drawn our 'ideal' living space as well, starting our exploration of the temperature of play in realistic vs ideal. That was our last exercise, making soundscapes for typical living spaces in Seoul, as well as our ideal house. There may have been talk of a loop pedal in our performance to allow audiences to join in soundscape making ;)
Tomorrow - houses as characters...who knows where we'll end up!
Day 7 and my energy is flagging a bit. Yet Taroo and Haeweon are so supportive as an ensemble that I remain afloat in the wonder and disorientation of playing and living in the context of Seoul.
Today we practiced our folk songs, Jindo Arirang and Ganggangsullae. We move forward with small steps, Haeweon and Bora being very patient as I feel out the language. Then we moved into an exploration of basic houses in Seoul as characters. It was quite an abstract thing to tackle, given that Bora and Jongim's training is in music, not movement. Yet we started off brainstorming ideas and slowly those ideas turned into one or two of us standing up, makinga gesture, frozen picture, or character trait. The members of Taroo were very helpful in clarifying things for me, as there are universal truths about apartments or houses around the world yet the intricacies are what differentiate context and location. We made a list of housing, from the tiny dorm style room with shared bathroom made for exam students (Goshiwon) to fancy glass apartment condos and traditional Hanok housing and everything inbetween. Once we started physicalizing them, we invited Songhee in from her producer work to watch us as we paraded around the room, enacting the different types out. She could guess most of them, with a few being too similar or confusing. This exercise was extremely fun for me coming from a physical theatre background and Haeweon and I really appreciated that everyone felt comfortable jumping in.
My attempts at associating different spaces in a house to body parts and movement as a lead in to developing text work was not so successful. We gave it about a half an hour, and although interesting, we just couldn't seem to make the jump from single lines to song writing. Bora informed me later in the day that she composes lyrics once she has a structure for the show, or a story outline, as Pansori concerns itself with leading the storytelling. This second experiment in movement, though fun for building space (we outlined different spaces like kitchen and living room in string) was a bit too abstract for music making. This highlighted for us two very important things that I knew in concept and not necessarily in practice:
1) breaking down an exercise so its accessible is essential when working across different disciplines/languages, which I felt we did well in the morning
2) being flexible/playful in rehearsal. After about a half hour of trying different questions in the exercise, we decided as a group that we should move on. Taroo's ability to work with us as we experiment with exercises on the fly is very generous, but finding the right time to let something go and move on is important.
We finished the day playing the gentrification game with Jongim and playing with Ttang-ta-meok-gi: a traditional Korean game that we may be able to adapt to open the question: what is essential for living?
As Bora, Haeweon and I reviewed all the chunks and ideas we have come up with so far at a cafe following rehearsal, Kyunghwa let us know we have booked our performance space - J bug! With one week left, the pieces slowly start to spiral into shape and structure. Tonight Haeweon and I go out to conduct community research with the public!
Tomorrow....when is the moment a house becomes a home???
Stay tuned :)