Spinal Tap turns up the volume to 11 so for North Korea’s Arirang Mass Games I have 11 pictures and then turn it up to 12 for videos.
The spectacle of 100,000+ performers, synchronized acrobatic dancing with a backdrop of synchronized cards creating murals in rapid fire precision encapsulates so much of what the regime values and the challenge of living in North Korea. When I visited in May 2010 I saw mass rehearsals in numerous parks, several months ahead of the annual late July-early September run of the show. Think of the pressurized monotony of months and months dedicated to this performance.
Rehearsal in May 2010:
The few times I spotted mistakes and injuries I cringed at what might befall the performer. The biggest hiccup for this prestigious 60th Victory Day performance was a power outage shortly into the special holiday multimedia introduction. A man flew down the steps past me toward some equipment with a look of sheer panic.
This year is a new version of the show, there are militaristic sections throughout, however there are many cultural and athletic scenes, and now with an ending focusing on friendship and peace around the world.
The pre-show warm-ups are great with rhythmic shouts and progressively more complex displays from the card backdrop.
The show begins with a nod to the namesake Arirang tale:
Then comes militaristic patriotism:
On to various cultural displays, some bizarre, like the huge pig surrounded by dancing eggs:
The grand finale:
A note to those attending. You will be given the choice of 3rd/2nd/1st/Premier Class for 80/100/150/300 euros. In a 100,000 seat stadium the natural assumption is these will be quite different, however they are all very close together. In the picture below, the nearest is 3rd, across the aisle is 2nd, next over is 1st in green. and below is one row for Premier. I was happy to be slightly off-center in exchange for saving 20 or more euro. The female enforcers in traditional hanbok dress watch for any attempts to take pictures of Premier Class, though when sitting there or directly behind in 1st, it is rather hard to avoid. The rest of the sections, including all the front rows, are for locals only.