The Hitchhiker's Guide
to the DPRK No. 4:
Learn the Mass Dance!

Practice makes perfect

If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution - Attributed to Emma Goldman

According to The Guide, travel to the DPRK during a holiday or important anniversary and one is likely to find oneself at a public mass dance put on by students, weather permitting of course. These large choreographed dances, accompanied by blasting revolutionary and folk music, take place at various locations around the city and can include from a few hundred to more than a thousand participants. In Pyongyang these rallies can occur at the Indoor Stadium, Party Foundation Monument, the Juche Tower, the Arch of Triumph, Grand People's Theatre and Kim Il Sung Square. Mass dances also occur in other cities, such as Kaesong and Wonsan, in public squares.

Foreign visitors are often encouraged, or peer-pressured depending on one's own confidence in their own coordination and dance skills, to join in with the students, moving hand-in-hand or matched pairs in concentric circles. Most people get by, missing a step or wave here and there, goofing up the direction of the dancers, or breaking up a would-be romantic couple (it is said, the mass dance is a good place for young romantics to meet a significant other). But is the mass dance easy enough to master on the spot? And does every Korean student master it with regular group practice? Apparently not.

And that is why there is an instructional DVD to provide some extra help for those who need some at home practice or review. The version below is from 2014 and runs 20 1/2 minutes in length. Filmed in what appears to be an indoor banquet hall, it features a group of men and women, dressed in formal attire demonstrating the various steps and moves to different Korean songs. The titles at the start of each section refer to the type of dance employed, for instance "slow 3-step dance" and not the name of the song.

No doubt some Korean students will be watching this DVD, or a newer version of it for the dance changes from time to time, this week as April 2017 is going to be a busy one in Korea. April 9 is the Pyongyang Marathon. April 15, locally known as 'The Day of the Sun' is the 105th anniversary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung, while April 25 is the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's army. April 9, 11, 13 also commemorate the anniversaries of the election of the DPRK leadership to to various distinguished positions or the obtainment of specific titles. Mass dances may occur on some or all of these days, so if you are coming to Pyongyang this April, do get practicing!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the DPRK – Practical tips for travel in Korea.

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