CultureReview
Mixing in Harmony, Bi-BapThe most appetizing non-verbal performance in the world
Lee Kyung-chul  |  lkc724@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2016.04.12  17:24:27
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HAVE YOU ever tasted Italian pizza, Chinese noodles or Japanese sushi? South Korea is also blessed with a plethora of tasty traditional foods, such as bi-bim-bap*. Instead of merely going to a restaurant and ordering such foods, there is another unique way to taste them. The non-verbal performance, Bi-bap presents a cooking competition involving food around the worldthrough impressive beats and b-boy dancing. Ever since the show was first performed in 2012, it has been massively successful in attracting not only the South Korean public but also foreign visitors who yearn for an exotic experience in South Korea. The 80 minute show will fly away in a blink as the talented cast makes you laugh uproariously and applaud their synchronized, nifty dance moves.

 
Launching the new cultural trend, eat entertainment
The title Bi-bap originates from the Korean traditional food bi-bim-bap. As the title implies, the performance aims to promote Korean food. The basic storyline is about eight young cooks who learn how to make bi-bim-bap from a master chef. The performance involves four cooking battles in which the actors breakdance, perform martial arts, beatbox, and sing a cappella. The cooks b-boy to chop the ingredients, perform beatbox to fry and roast them, and sing a cappella to mix the ingredients. Slapstick is also a condiment to this spectacular and tasty musical that awakens the audience’s senses. As the performance does not involve dialogue, foreigners can also be easily understand and follow the storyline.
This non-verbal performance has neither a fixed storyline nor long dialogues as it only consists of rhythm and dance. In fact, the director of Bi-bap, Choi Chul-ki earned his reputation as a maestro of non-verbal performance. He directed Nan-ta, which is a distinctive Korean non-verbal performance that has garnered international acclaim. In his interview with YTN, he stated that he was motivated to produce non-verbal performances out of hope that everyone can appreciate the show regardless of their nationality and age. In line with this goal, he has pioneered a new type of entertainment, eat entertainment, through Bi-bap. This new genre expresses every aspect of cooking and eating food visually through various means. The joy of eating is now expressed on stage, allowing for a really delicious performance. 
             
Assorted mixture of various genres
The show features various forms of art, including beat-boxing, b-boying, a cappella and martial arts. Such an interesting mixture of performing arts provides an awe-inspiring experience to the audience. Each chef respectively describes the cooking process via different forms of  art.
MC chef and Rhythm chef produce every sound effect in the performance via beat boxing. MC chef creates various cooking sounds and dubs the dialogue of other chefs. Additionally, Rhythm chef, who is in charge of making an extremely fast beat box, adds vigor to the cooking process and seasons the stage with vivid sounds of cooking. Sexy chef and Cutie chef express the taste of food by chanting a sweet melody. Iron chef and Rookie chef fill the stage with b-boying to describe the process of cooking. Supported by one palm on the floor, their bodies bounce high up in the air. The performers’ muscles quickly contract and relax, creating a body spin. The audience not only sees the cuisine being prepared on stage, but also hears the harmonious sounds. Finally, the aria is inserted in the climax, in which chief chefs compete with each other to produce the best bi-bim-bap. When the kitchen receives an order for the best bi-bim-bap, the two rival chefs exaggerate their motions with splendid martial arts and flaunt their cooking abilities. The audience enjoys so much diversity in one performance. This is in line with the Korean term bi-bi-da, which means “to mix.” Director Choi said, “I expressed the process of mixing a bowl of ingredients with break dancing and beat boxing. I added a cappella music and a bit of Korean traditional martial arts movements, such as taek-kyeon**, too.”
 
 
Plotting the story with the audience
The most noteworthy element in this performance is the active interaction between the performers and the audience. The audience is deliberately invited into the process of every competition. For example, the performers arrange an instant blind date between a male audience and a female audience after cooking a pizza. A table with beverages are set up on the stage and an awkward mood is formed when the man and woman sit down. Such an atmosphere elicits laughter from the audience. Additionally, while cooking chicken noodle soup, a person from the audience is called up to the stage to express the taste of the food by his or her own dance moves.
Furthermore, one of the most interesting features of the show is that the audience determines the winner of the final competition between two chief chefs. A person from the audience tastes two kinds ofbi-bim-bap and chooses which one tastes better. Depending on the audience’s decision, there is a different ending of Bi-bap. Audience members might be embarrassed to be called up to the stage, at first, but eventually engage in the performance, creating an unforgettable experience. Anyone can enjoy and actually be involved in the making of this unique musical.
 
*                 *                 *
Bi-bap, the world’s first performance that combines cooking and entertainment, is an unprecedented form of a musical. Setting bi-bim-bap as its motif, Bi-bap introduces Korean traditional food through joyful and dynamic performance. Four distinct areas of performing arts, beat-boxing, b-boying, a cappella, and martial arts, are molded into one genre in Bi-bap. The unique features of each art form are blended together harmoniously, just like bi-bim-bap.
 
*Box 1:
Date: March 20, 2012~
Place: Jongno Cinecore, Seoul
Price: \50,000(R seats)
\40,000(S seats)
(30% discount for students, 40% for university freshmen)
 
Bi-bim-bap*: A traditional South Korean dish that is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with seasoned vegetables and chili pepper paste
Taek-kyeon**: A traditional Korean martial art that emphasizes dynamic leg techniques as well as natural and geometric movements of the human body
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