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Feel the Rhythm of Korea: Seoul

neil
2020.10.13 07:03 92 0 0

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I recently came across a very interesting video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P1CnWI62Ik&feature=youtu.be (“Feel the Rhythm of Korea: Seoul.”) It is a collaborative work of an alternative pop band ‘LEENALCHI,’ Ambiguous Dance Company and the Korean Tourism Organization.  

It featured dancers from Ambiguous Dance Company dancing to a song based on a traditional Korean story-telling song  (판소)범 내려온 (“Tiger’s Coming Down.”) Just as the song performed is a contemporary rendition of a traditional folk song, the dance itself is a contemporary dance piece combining moves from ballet, the traditional Korean folk dance as well as twist and modern breakdancing originating from urban North America. This historical, cultural and stylistic fusion can also be seen (i) in the mix of ancient palaces and modern building scenes in Seoul, as well as (ii) in the dancers’ costumes.  

What I appreciate about the video is that it is a holistic event in the sense that it is not just one specific thing. It’s not a tourism advertisement video. It is not a music video. It is not a dance video. It is not a fashion video. It’s difficult to categorize it as one particular thing. If anything, at a first glance, it resembles the “Gangnam Style” video; and no tourism promotion message is found in the video. (Only the not-so-obvious Korean Tourism Organization logo appears at the end of the video.)  Like the “Gangnam” video, it shows scenes of Seoul and what Koreans do - sing and dance, walk around, drive around, etc.

Another unconventionality of the video is that it is NOT a product of the Korean Tourism Organization, where the Organization hired the music group and the dance company to produced a tourism commercial video for them. On the contrary, the music group and the dance company participated as equal partners in the conception and the production process. Because of this democratic collaborative approach among the parties, the work seems to exhibit a new level of aesthetic sophistication in two ways. The first is the sense of stylistic freedom (trying something very different), playfulness (reminiscent of The Beatles’ movies) and enthusiasm found in the work.

Another aspect of this sophistication I see is how we are to appreciate the content: We are to appreciate the content of this work for what it exactly is, and NOT see it as an audio-visual sugar-coating on a commercial message. Let the work itself speak to you, NOT the Korean Tourism Organization. With Covid-crap hitting the fan around the world (and Koreans having brought it under control in Korea), the Koreans are not too keen on having outsiders visit Korea now. If anything, just have good vibes about Korea for now.     

Is this the future of commercials - to not be a commercial? If anything, is it to turn a traditional commercial format into a subtle PR campaign where the audio-visual content becomes an end it and of itself, and NOT a sugar-coating on a commercial message?

Human beings have been singing and dancing ever since we lived in caves and huts. Our singing and dancing had nothing to do with money and profit motive then. As such, if human beings wish to live freely, human being ought to be able to sing and dance just to do so - to affirm that we are still human beings, alive and free.  

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