The Andong Mask Dance Festival

On the left is a bigger-than-life float-like statue of a man wearing traditional Korean clothes and a Hahoe mask, and on his left is a woman-statue dressed up and having her head be the Hahoe woman's mask, all sitting under a blue sky dotted with white clouds.  Far in the distance on the left festival tents can be seen.

I timed my visit to Andong to coincide with their annual Mask Dance Festival.

The map shows that Gyeongsang-buk Province is in eastern-central South Korea, and that Andong is in the center of the province.

When I checked into the hostel in Andong, I met my roommate, a young woman from Germany. South Korea was the first country she had visited outside of Europe. She enjoys watching K-dramas (South Korean TV dramas), and that’s why, out of all the places in Asia, she decided to travel in south Korea.

On the left is a giant Russian doll, and on the right is a chibi Batman, with festival tents in the background

It’s an *international* mask dance festival.

I had never seen any K-dramas before going to South Korea, but I have seen Taiwanese idol dramas, and the German woman watches Taiwanese idol dramas too. We both love Mìng zhòng zhùdìng wǒ ài nǐ. She’s the one who told me that there’s now a Korean version, but she says that she doesn’t like the Korean remake as much as the Taiwanese original.

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Though I had not seen K-dramas, I had read quite a few manhwa (Korean comic books), and someone was giving away a fan depicting characters from Goong wearing Andong maks:

On the left is Yun Seong with a Hahoe mask in his hands, in the center is Chae-Kyung who has just taken off a Hahoe mask (laughing face), and Lee Shin on the right has just taken off a Hahoe mask (young woman)

Goong wasn’t the first manhwa I read, but it’s one of the first which hooked me, and thus is part of why I wanted to visit Korea in the first place

We went out together that evening to see the festival in downtown Andong. Even though downtown Andong is small, we still got lost, and she’s the one who figured out what the correct direction is.

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We wandered around the tents, seeing what was for sale and what activities were offered, and we encountered the Mask Dance Parade!

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There was rhythmic Korean music playing, people were dancing, masked menances flailed their arms, strobe lights flashed … it was good fun.

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After the parade, we made our way to the evening dance performances. The festival invites performers from across South Korea and the world. During the two evenings I went to the festival, I saw dance groups from Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Mexico. The second Mexican group featured the most elaborate costumes (including masks) which I have ever seen – even though their dance was repetitive, it was mesmerizing simply because of the wonder that people could dance even in such costumes.

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All in all, it was great times at the festival, made even better with the company of my roommate from Germany. There was a vibrant energy all around, and I never knew when I would stumble on the performance of, say, a dance troupe from Indonesia (actually I would have known if I had consulted the schedule).

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I saw a few festivals in South Korea, and this was definitely my favorite.

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About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.
This entry was posted in Art, City, Festival, Gyeongsangbuk, Performance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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