Seoul’s largest cultural heritage festival spotlights new technologies in traditional content, from media facades to digital ‘Black Tiger Dance’

“Saebom Binari” is performed by a dancing team and a pansori singer in Gyeongbokgung as part of the 2022 Royal Culture Festival on Tuesday night. (Yonhap)

The opening performance of the 2022 Royal Culture Festival took place Tuesday night at Heungnyemun Square in Gyeongbokgung, after being virtual for two years due to the pandemic.

Jointly organized by the Royal Palace and the Tombs Center of the Cultural Heritage Administration and the Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, the spring edition of the biannual festival runs under the theme “Narye and Yeonhui” until May 22.

The festival centers around royal court rituals and performances held to ward off evil spirits and invite good fortune. By combining today’s storytelling and technologies with rituals and performances, the event conveys hopes for the nation’s recovery from the pandemic crisis and new life.

The festival opened with a modernized version of “Gunahaeng”, a traditional Narye rite, based on a poem written by scholar Yi Saek, during the Goryeo era.

To the sound of traditional instruments, lion-masked performers paraded behind a flag with black tigers meant to shake off bad energy and bring positive spirits.

In the first act, a team of dancers from K-Arts Dance Company and pansori singer Choi Ye-lim took the stage.

The performance, “Saebom Binari,” a song wishing for a hopeful new spring, involved a mix of Korean pansori with gugak and dance. Media art projections were presented on 5 meter high towers.

The traditional street art performance “Gunahaeng Daepannoreum” is staged with a modern twist at the 2022 Royal Culture Festival held in Gyeongbokgung on Tuesday night. (CHA)

“Gunahaeng Daepannoreum”, a traditional street art performance that combines gilnori, pannori, a tiger dance and hapdongmu followed. An EDM DJ played the music in a reinterpretation of the original performance, and a performer in a black tiger costume happily danced to the vibrant beat, with lights beaming from his eyes.

The highlight of the festival, “Yeolsangjinwon”, was revealed in the second act of the festival. The multimedia performance is inspired by a tale surrounding a small spring located at the foot of Bugaksan before the construction of Gyeongbokgung. With media facades and 3D laser arts, lights and moving images gently lit up the night in Gyeongbokgung.

The scene ended with a song from the musical “Sohyeon,” a tragic yet beautiful story about the dreams of Crown Prince Sohyeon and Princess Minhoe.

The Royal Culture Festival is held at five Joseon royal palaces in Seoul — Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung — as well as Jongmyo and Sajikdan. Admission to Gyeongbokgung is free for the duration of the festival.

Information about some 49 programs and ticket reservations can be found on the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation website.

By Kim Hae-yeon ([email protected])