Tuesday, December 18, 2018

G.C.F. 3J @2018 MMA Practice: The idol as modern day shaman

When BTS performed “Idol” at the Melon Music Awards (MMA) on December 1, 2018, they included a special intro. The dance line--Jimin, J-Hope, and Jungkook--each had a short folk dance-inspired solo. The juxtaposition of the shamanistic folk dances with BTS as contemporary Korean idols touches on a deeper understanding of what it can mean to be an idol. It’s something we see from Japanese idols like Takizawa Hideaki and his long running stageplay Takizawa Kabuki but I hadn’t yet really come across anything like it from Korea. The linking of the traditional art forms with the modern aesthetic, drawing parallels between the old folk culture and a new folk culture still being developed.

(A trailer for Takizawa Kabuki 2018 (滝沢歌舞伎))

The MMA performance was good--don’t get me wrong--but it wasn’t great. Not when your point of comparison is Takizawa Kabuki or, indeed, the women of the Takarazuka Theater Troupe who specialize in just this type of performance.

(Long trailer for the Moon Troupe’s Nobunaga, which I wrote about here.)

The stage lighting was distracting, a large screen projecting a swirling mass of colors behind the performance, as if the producer had been unsure of the dancers’ ability to hold the audience’s attention on their own. The drape of the Jungkook’s and J-Hope’s coats did not flow right, concealing rather than emphasizing their movements. To properly showcase a stage dance like this, the fabric needs to flare out, a swish of the arm or leg should move the fabric outwards, a real life echo of the movement. Jungkook and J-Hope’s coats bunched up and hid their figures.

I’m sure I would have forgotten all about this stage in the rush of end of the year performances if Jungkook hadn’t released another of his Golden Closet Films: “G.C.F. 3J@ MMA Practice.”

Set to the jangly beat of Alex Lustig’s Under Pressure, Jungkook shows us what the performances were supposed to look like, drawing more shamanistic energy from the movement of their bodies, filmed in black and white, dressed in simple rehearsal clothes, than the full performance overly busy stage set managed to do.

Just compare the way Jungkook captured J-Hope’s plain t-shirt flowing with his movements to how the costume coat bunched and concealed.

Jungkook gets it.

The film is short, just about a minute and a half, but it is powerful. The long sweep of Jimin’s arms as he wields the fan; J-Hope crouching, all coiled tension like a tiger ready to pounce; and Jungkook himself, face concealed beneath a hat, displaying the formidable power in his body as he leaps into the air, the fabric he’s holding flowing perfectly around him, highlighting the graceful movements of his arms.

They are not in costume. The music is far from traditional. And yet the magic is there. The idol as modern day shaman.

Jimin rehearsing the fan dance

My favorite sequence: Jungkook captured in the mirror as J-Hope dances. The way his shirt flares out with his movements is beautiful. It is such a shame the way the MMA costuming concealed rather than emphasized.

Jungkook-Director, face hidden for the mask dance. The way he leaps into the air as if gravity is nothing...

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