For 'Show Taekwon,' the big drum beat goes on

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For 'Show Taekwon,' the big drum beat goes on

The French can keep the Moulin Rouge show and kabuki need not leave Japan. Korea has its own unique brand of theater -- "Show Taekwon."

Sure, the peninsula is full of temples, markets and folk villages -- the staples of the Korean tourism industry. But if you were looking for something more dynamic, something combining traditional Korean culture in an exciting, showy display, there were few options.

"Show Taekwon" is an 80-minute extravaganza mixing taekwondo, salsa and hip-hop with an array of color and light. The Live Entertainment Company created the action-packed spectacle with foreign visitors in mind, one in which language is not a barrier.

Four components make "Show Taekwon" quintessentially Korean. First, the long, double-edged swords and large drums, the trademarks of Korea's most famous martial art, taekwondo. Next come the red and blue lanterns and bamboo groves that set the mood on stage. Then there are the costumes, including traditional masks and taekwondo robes. The show would not be complete, however, without music, the sounds of Korea that tell the story of good and evil in a universal beat that anyone can understand.

The show is about Ji (whose name means truth) and Seon (good), the most talented students at the Jeonggwon Martial Arts Training Hall. After Geukak (extreme evil) murders their master, the students try to retaliate, but are struck down. Geumgangyeoksa, the ancient martial arts god, saves them from the brink of death. He then passes onto them the taekwondo spirit, preparing them to battle evil for a second time.

The Live Entertainment Company embarks on a mission to present traditional Korea without bowing to the confines of theatrical conventions in "Show Taekwon." A large dragon dances to the sounds his master plays on wind instruments and drums. Actors come off stage to walk among the 400-seat Chongdong theater, drawing the audience into the drama. Classical lamps and statues depict an older Korea, but the actors tell an ageless tale of self-discipline and self-realization. "Show Taekwon" adds a modern edge to Korea's folkways, fusing martial arts and theater to prove that culture doesn't have to stand still.

"Show Taekwon" follows in the footsteps of shows like "Nanta," which have become renowned for the way they utilize music and high-energy performance techniques to capture and maintain the interest of international audiences. "Nanta" has been using pots, pans, chopping boards and anything else lying around the on-stage kitchen to pound out traditional Korean rhythms in a comedic cultural display since 1997.

"Show Taekwon" takes place at Chongdong A and C theater at 8 p.m. every day of the week except Tuesday. There is also a 4 p.m. showing on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost 30,000-35,000 won ($25-30). For more information, call 02-785-5666.

by Daniela SantaMaria

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