The Lotus Lantern Festival (Buddha’s Birth Anniversary) is one of the most important festivals in Seoul. Streets are lined with gleaming lanterns, jubilation fills the air, and under the spotlight — performers emerge under the masks of ordinary people.
This year, the buildup to the Lotus Lantern Festival, coincided with many other celebrations and commemorative events. It could also be one of the reasons, why I got confused with the days, and we missed the Lantern Parade. We walked for about 2 km, along an empty street, before I saw a signage indicating the scheduled day of the event. Mildly tired, hungry, thoroughly disappointed, and feeling incredibly stupid; I wanted to head back home. Fortunately, Basil was still thinking straight and we took the subway to Jogyesa Temple. At 7 pm, we were surprised to see cultural performances in progress. From the back row and tipping on our toes; we saw some fantastic performers take centre stage.
“I don’t think I could live without hair, makeup and styling, let alone be the performer I am. I am a glamour girl through and through. I believe in the glamorous life and I live one.”
“People think because I can make them laugh on the stage, I’ll be able to make them laugh in person. That isn’t the case at all. I am essentially a rather quiet, dull person who just happens to be a performer.”
It’s one thing to feel happy. It’s another, to show that you are. On a warm day, with the spotlights shining, and with a hundred odd people breathing in close proximity; I don’t think its easy to be happy — leave alone look happy. And yet, the performers danced in glee. As if, nothing could get them down. Not the heat. Not the layers of make up. And, definitely not, the beautiful hanboks they wore.
“If you don’t take no chances, then you’re not a performer. Performers always take chances. You go see a singer, they’ll hit the high note. They’ll hit that note, they’re not afraid, they’re gonna exaggerate the fact and make me enjoy it, make me say, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that!”
A performer doesn’t always require a stage. Or an audience. If you’re good enough; a desolate street will do. Eventually, people will turn up. Long after the celebrations had died down and tourists had begun walking back home; this group of drum performers didn’t let their enthusiasm fade away. They continued drumming. It wasn’t a performance. Or an act. It was them, raising a toast to a job well done.
“When you’re a performer, of course you want an audience, but it’s very, very different from courting fame.”
It doesn’t matter who won. Who got the most cheers or claps. Being a performer is owning your act, forgetting your fears, and living your 5 minutes under the spotlight.
“I suppose it’s a very highly developed form of denial, but some part of me completely denies that I’m a performer.”
Daniel Day Lewis
Underneath it all, we’re all human. Even performers need to let go. And when they do, it would be hard to imagine how perfectly poised they were — a few hours earlier.