Traditions through Change: The Role of Performance in Modern Society
South Korea stands as a country where digital billboards and cutting edge technology exist side by side with an emerging break dancing movement, a massive market for Broadway productions and ancient shamanic rituals. Whereas many nations stamp out such parts of society in an attempt to become “modern,” South Korea has taken a unique path, where performance and face to face interaction remains an everyday part of society. In my project I work, train and, at times, live with these dancers, performers and shaman (called “Mudang”) to learn what the role of the performer is in South Korean society and why performance has remained so integral to Korean life. I will recount my experiences of staying and living with Mudang, training with K-pop choreographers, and interviews with arts administrators from different parts of Seoul. By taking a broad and immersive approach to the project, I can draw similarities and recurring themes that define the way performance and live action define South Korean life. In turn, I hope to take these lessons and training methods back to the United States to create a new method of training and a new style of performance. Basing many of my new ideas off of the shamanic “Kut” (Korean mudang rituals), I hope to discover how live performance does more for us than entertain, and further define the true role and need to the performer in modern society.
Adam Glassman is a recent graduate from Grinnell College, where he majored in Theatre and Dance. His focus in theatre is as a director, and his work mainly deals with ending the audience-performer relationship barrier, consciousness shifting and creating new rituals to deal with life in modern society. He has spent time travelling and learning shamanic and modern performance techniques in countries
like India, Tibet and Japan among others. Combined with his time in South Korea, he hopes to fuse lessons learned from different training methods and lifestyles to create a new type of modern performer. After this Fulbright year Adam hopes to continue travelling and discovering new methods of performance, perhaps in Africa or at the NYU Tisch Performance Studies graduate program, though he remains open to any number of options.