In time of chaos, taekwondo seeks peaceWhen international interest in taekwondo began to wane, threatening the sport’s chance of becoming a permanent Olympic event, the Korea Taekwondo Association took matters into its own hands.
With the support of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, it created “The Tal,” a nonverbal performance meant to cement the martial art’s brand around the world.
Since 2010, the performance has toured 24 cities in 18 nations, reaching more than 750,000 people. It was also invited to Unesco to show off various aspects of Korean cultural heritage last year.
Now it has come home for the first time. It will run through March 24 at the K-Art Hall in Olympic Park, southern Seoul.
“The Tal” makes use of taekwondo in conjunction with percussion, traditional dance and B-boying, or breakdancing, to tell a dramatic story of greed and later revival.
In a time of peace, a greedy man seizes a special tal (mask) that bestows godlike powers on its wearer. As the man grows infatuated with his newfound strength, the world grows chaotic. To correct the imbalance, God grants the celestial art of taekwondo to humans.
As the curtain goes up, bright lights and rhythmical percussion raise tension. Actors in blue and red, which symbolize good and evil respectively, go head-to-head for the tal as resonating sounds in the background represent heaven.
Each of the dance genres represents a different element of the story. Korean traditional dancers show the intentions of heaven’s angels and B-boying demonstrates human desire.
“Arirang,” the best-known folk song in Korea, complements the dance with its universal human emotions so that the story can be shared by audiences all around the world.
Monica Leen, 24, a tourist from California who attended a recent showing, highly praised the play.
“The performance was fantastic,” she said. “I knew that taekwondo was a global martial art representing Korea, but the performances in ‘The Tal’ surpassed my expectations.”