Mass Games

mass games

Mass games or mass gymnastics are a form of performing arts in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess. The effect of displaying huge images is achieved by a having large number of individuals each being dressed in a particular color or holding a colored hard paper above their heads.

Because of the vast scale of the performance, with often tens of thousands of performers, mass games are performed in stadiums, often accompanied by a background of card-turners occupying the seats on the opposite side from the viewers. The rapid change of images was achieved by changing a card with another in swift and synchronized movement. The synchronization is achieved after several hours-long rehearsals and employs much choreography.

Mass games developed alongside 19th century nationalist movements, particularly the Czech Sokol movement, as they embodied youth, strength, militarism, and unity. People taking part in the event are workers from the factories brought in party organizations by the Party Secretaries.

In Romania the communist government also organized compulsory mass games after the party leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu, and his wife had visited China and had seen such games in person. These days were the hardest working days of the year since every individual was required to participate along with his fellow workers. Being late on this day or not shouting the party leader’s name loudly enough would bring reports from fellow workers and prosecution.

Today, mass games are regularly performed only in North Korea, where they take place to celebrate national holidays such as the birthdays of rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. In recent years, they have been the main attraction of the Arirang Festival in Pyongyang. The 2004 film ‘A State of Mind’ details the training of two young girls from Pyongyang who perform in the mass games.

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