Large group of dancers in traditional Korean green dress
Culture & tradition,  DPRK,  Friendly Friday,  Travel galleries

Gallery: dancing on the streets of Pyongyang

Only in North Korea, I thought, could you have a day of sightseeing like this! It was the country’s National Day, marking the 71st anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, and our itinerary for the day had been carefully planned to allow us to see how Pyongyangites celebrated the occasion.

We had already paid our respects at the birthplace of Kim il Sung (Mangyongdae on the outskirts of the city). Later we would visit Moranbong Park to see locals barbecuing, picnicking, dancing and boating; and later still we would attend a revolutionary opera at the Grand Theatre, The Story of the Iron Works (yes, only in North Korea would an opera be set in an ironworks, I suspect!)

Dancing in the streets

But the highlight this morning was to join the mass dancing outside the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium (one of several locations for such gatherings). We were able to watch the colourful spectacle from the steps of the building. Many tourists were invited to join in too, and I had one dance with our young guide. I have a feeling I rather disappointed him in my slowness to pick up the steps; but as they were quite repetitive I did get the hang of them and got into the rhythm of the dance, which reminded me a lot of Regency era line dancing.

The local participants were uniformly (or so it seemed to my untrained eye) in command of the steps and proficient at dancing. They appeared to be enjoying it, while taking the accurate performance of the different dances quite seriously. As with so many things here, I couldn’t tell if they genuinely wanted to be here, dancing together, or if this was something they did because it was expected of them, like keeping the streets clean, and the grass and flowers well-tended. North Korea tends to have that effect on you, making you question things you would take for granted anywhere else.

Like almost everything we did and saw in North Korea, this was a unique experience. So when, for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge, Sandy asks us to share something unusual or unique that we’ve seen on our travels, I am spoiled for choice! But I think we all need something colourful in our lives right now. so I hope you will enjoy watching Pyongyang at play.

If you enjoyed this you might also like to read about Why I went to North Korea or my other North Korea posts.

I visited North Korea in 2019

28 Comments

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Except this one has appeared 😀 I assume the comment below and the one on my latest post are both from you? Thank you for persisting! They ARE appearing but only after I moderate them for some reason, and they appear as anonymous even though you’ve commented many times before and I have the blog set in such a way that I only need to approve the first comment. That usually works fine, so I have idea why for some reason it stops recognising you from time to time 😡

  • Anonymous

    I loved the colour in these pictures and I’d give a lot to have a green robe liked the one that young girl is wearing. Were you able to purchase anything like this? As for whether they are enjoying it or not, I’d say yes, they are. Humans love rhythm and dancing, it’s an innate need, and like drumming, I think it can be found in every civilization. And better the serious expressions as they concentrate on the steps than the rictus grins on the Strictly Come Dancing contestants dancing competitively.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, I think they probably were enjoying it, as we saw plenty of evidence elsewhere that North Koreans love music and dancing 😀 I did see some traditional dresses for sale on our Pyongyang hotel but I didn’t buy one – it’s the sort of thing that looks great over there but you would never wear at home apart perhaps for a fancy dress party!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Unexpected, yes, if you haven’t visited – I think it’s too easy to assume that people are downtrodden and depressed but actually for the better-off inhabitants of Pyongyang in particular, there is pleasure in dancing, socialising etc. And the dresses are so colourful, aren’t they? People wear them for special days, and all the guides we had at the different sites were also dressed traditionally 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Albert – I can’t remember if you saw mass dancing on either of your trips? If so, what do you think about this question of whether or not they enjoy it / want to be there?

  • starship VT

    Although I can’t see much joy in the faces of the participants, the mass dancing performance really is a spectacle I would have enjoyed seeing! The few tourists dancing too was fun to see. I especially liked seeing the designs and colors of the women’s hanboks — fabulous! Love the individuals you captured in your photos too, Sarah.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Sylvia 🙂 I do believe that the serious expressions relate to them taking their responsibilities as dancers seriously rather than not wanting to be there. When dancing among them I did get the feeling they were enjoying the dances to some extent at least, and certainly elsewhere, as I said, we saw them dancing with more abandon and enjoyment 🙂

  • margaret21

    Oh, how fabulous. I’ll certainly follow up your NK posts later. We went to South Korea in 2017 when our daughter was working there. The dancing we saw at Chuseok bears some relationship to what you show here. This display looks more colourful than I would have expected.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Margaret 🙂 The North Korean women seem proud to wear their national dress but their day to day clothing tends towards more sober colours – black skirt and white blouse in Pyongyang, practical trousers and shirts elsewhere. I’d love to visit South Korea one day to make the comparisons!

  • SandyL

    North Korea definitely qualifies as a unique destination! That group dance must have been impressive to watch but you’re right, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for what is normally a fun activity. I’m intrigued about your trip & will be reading more.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Sandy – it was an amazing trip 😀 The North Koreans do like music and dance but I think they took their responsibility to do the day justice rather seriously. When we saw them dancing in the park later in the day it was much more carefree even though they still danced the traditional steps 🙂

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