Saturday, June 8, 2013

RAS 2013 Garden Party

Every year the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch holds a huge book sale event at alternating locations - the British embassy and the American embassy. This year it was hosted at the British embassy in its beautifully landscaped gardens with awnings set up to shelter the books, food and guests in this annual leisure event.

As a member of the RAS for several years now, I offered to help set up the book tables along with a number of other volunteer members. Only members, no member spouses or family members, are invited to this exclusive event. The purpose is to have a book selling event with food nibbles, some traditional entertainment and a mixing of scholars for networking and broadening friendships ... and of course for marketing the written treasures.

The tables were laden with books organized into topics - history, culture change and development, politics, the colonial period, the Korean War, shamanism, religion, poetry, traditions, and the list goes on ... as did the tables. Members are given a sizable membership discount price in this single annual event, and the scholars do look and do purchase.

An event could never be held without food, and caterers are brought in to prepare luncheon tidbits and have platters ready for the guest-members when they arrive.

And then of course entertainment! This year there were two kinds of entertainment: first the traditional singers sometimes accompanied by the gayageum and piri and the traditional cowhide drum - not pictured. Following that were some phenomenal 풍물 dancers, also called 농각 or literally "farmer's music" dancers. The dancers drummed and beat on their cymbals while twirling the ribbons and tufts around on their brimmed hats. These guys were exceptionally good, leaping high in the air as they twirled their bodies while further twirling their beribboned hats.

And then the star performer came out with an extraordinarily long ribbon. The longer the ribbon, the more skilled the dancer! With the long ribbon he twirled it perpendicularly to the ground then got it in the vertical swirl ... to jump over the ribbon on its descent as if it were a jump rope ... He was able to sit down and twirl ... He was able to lay down and twirl (some talent!) ... and most adroitly, he was able to do a handstand and twirl. And I didn't understand how this was physically possible as he had to be particularly nimble in inverting himself otherwise the circular motion would be disturbed by interference with the ground and then his hands, which he had to constantly move as the ribbon came around in rapid revolutions. He made the rapid spin of ribbon look easy. Amazingly nimble!

The RAS was well-pleased with membership attendance, the setting, and their book sales. And so now members can start saving up for next year's book extravaganza.

No comments:

Post a Comment