Our guides took us to see the children’s performance palace (I forget its official title), where they put on display groups of children whose performances were incredible. I wrote and posted images of them before.
Who knows what training they’ve had or what motivates them to get to this level. I think the usual first guess of people who are critical of North Korea is that the government coerces them — that if they don’t perform well someone will harm their parents or something like that.
Someone also told me that these children hold very high status, so maybe they have internal motivation.
I’ll never know if they are pushed, pulled, motivated on their own, something else, some combination, or what. All I can say is I’m incredibly impressed with their performances, mystified by how they train, and creeped out by the state putting them on display and having them put on those facial expressions.
Other kids in the Children’s Palace practicing piano
Here are some kids performing practicing piano.
More dance, also us watching them
More of them dancing.
This time you also see us taking pictures and video of them. It’s a weird situation to have the government put all these older western guys in front of these North Korean girls. Not much we can do but take their pictures like, I guess, we’re supposed to.
That evening’s full performance
After we toured the Children’s Palace rehearsal spaces, they put on a full show for us. Here are some stills.
One live performer
Here is one live performer at the Children’s Palace. I can’t help but comment on the hokiness of the emotion expressed and how hammed up it is and the contrast with how amazingly she performs.
Comparison with some American performances
I can’t help but contrast performances we saw in North Korea with some you see in the United States. I remember after seeing some cheerleading performances after the North Korean performances thinking what my country did didn’t hold a candle to what North Korea did.
I searched YouTube for cheerleading performances and realized my mistake. To my eyes the talent looks comparable.
I’m putting a couple other videos here to get people to compare expression in each culture. Obviously a few videos don’t represent everything, but I don’t think America would ever produce the North Korean performances and I know North Korea wouldn’t produce the examples I chose from the United States — cheerleading and two breakdance performances.
I put these videos here not to compare individual performers or types of dance, but to provoke thought about the systems that create each, which I think shows more about the different cultures than many other things. Try to get past the differences between dance forms and individuals.
- What motivates the performers?
- What support does their government give (or obstruction, in the case of the cops stopping the breakdancers)
- How do each balance personal artistic expression with technical perfection?
- Whom do they perform for?
- How do the dancers relate to each other, the audience, and whoever manages them, if anyone?
- What emotions does the dance communicate?
- What do the dancers do when they aren’t dancing (do they have jobs, go to school, etc)?
I’m sure you can come up with other questions.
State champion high school cheerleaders from Ohio
Breakdancers in the New York City Subway
Breakdancers in a competition
Personally I think the contrast these videos shows as much about the differences between our cultures as anything else.
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