Tuesday, October 21, 2003

There is a picture in the New York Times Magazine that I can't stop looking at. It is of a "mass game" in North Korea, a choreographed performance put on for Kim Jong Il's 60th birthday. There are hundreds of girls holding up red pom poms in a darkened stadium, and behind them, a crowd is holding up colored placards to make an enormous picture of mountains and clouds. There is a gigantic piece of scenery blocking the view from part of the crowd, so I'm pretty sure they're performers too and not there to be spectators. I think Kim Jong Il is pretty much the only spectator. One of the girls is standing a little sideways and pigeon toed.

There is so much to wonder about in this picture. I think there are at least 1,000 girls in the picture, and there are more off the edges. Who are they? Who made their thousands of pom poms and their little pink dresses? (On the next page there is another picture of a diferent routine with a different set and costumes. Are there whole factories devoted to making costumes and scenery for Kim Jong Il's dancing girls? The caption says that the games involved more than 100,000 participants.) Who choreographed them and did they all rehearse together, or did they practice separately at first and then rehearse together for the first time in the stadium a couple of days earlier? Are they enjoying it at all? What about the people in the crowd?

Does anybody outside of North Korea even know the answers to all this?


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