Andong just concluded, yesterday, its annual Mask Dance Festival, and it was superb! Featuring performances by dancers from 14 countries over the 10-day run of the festival, the event offered a bit of something for everyone. In addition to the dancers, there were tents to build your own kite, paint masks, create pottery and other do-it-yourself projects. Stages other than the main ampitheater highlighted local and Korean national dance and drum groups, and other areas were venues for traditional shaman rituals, Buddhist ceremonies and assorted productions.

But the best part of the festival, for me anyway, was the dance groups. I saw 10 of the 14 countries that performed, most of them more than once and a couple of them I saw for 4 performances. The best of the lot, in my very subjective opinion, were the Malaysian dancers and percussionists, whose movements were very sensuous and whose closing was a remarkable stick dance, so to speak, wherein the dancers stepped through bamboo poles being opened and closed by other members of the troupe to an ever-increasing intensity of the musical rhythm by the drummers. A great performance! Running a close second was the Taiwan contingent, more acrobatic and energetic than the Malaysians, featuring one fellow who did it all–tumbled, juggled and twirled a pole. That doesn’t sound like much, but you would have to see it to appreciate his multiple talents. The other members of the team were also very good! Other highlights were the energy of the Turkish dancers, the professionalism of the Latvians, the gorgeous costumes of the Thais, the bizarre outfits of the Bhutanese, and the beautiful music and energy of the Russians. I also watched performances by the Japanese, Kenyans, Poles, and Australian aborigines.

Of course, I shot many photographs, probably close to a thousand, with my new digital Canon Rebel. Now for the hard part–going through and discarding the bad ones and putting some of the good ones up on the Photo Gallery section of the website. That’s going to take some time, but keep checking the Gallery over the next few weeks and I’m sure you’ll see something new every day.

I made some new friends, but probably none more amazing or interesting than Joann, a lady around my age or a little older who has traveled throughout the world, including Antarctica. She retired from the bar she owned in Saratoga, New York, to see the world. It seems she’s been everywhere–the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Europe, etc., etc. She has a great talent for making friends, and the South Koreans loved her, even the ones who couldn’t speak a lick of English. She also made friends with most of the foreign dancers. Truly a rare person who is comfortable no matter where she goes. Good luck, Joann, and “keep on truckin.'”

So, be sure to check out the photos (click on Photo Gallery at the {{link http://www.montanaron.com main site}}).

The students had a sports festival last week, so there were no classes last Wed., Thurs., and Fri. That “down time” from the university allowed me to spend so much time at the festival. Alas, between now and the end of the semester in mid-December there are no more days off for holidays or festivals. The days are getting shorter and colder, the leaves on the trees are beginning to turn color, and winter is just around the corner. I’ll keep my thoughts on winter vacation in January when I’ll be traveling to Thailand and other areas in Southeast Asia–warm weather, sunny beaches, swaying palms.