North Korean 'Snow White' takes to stage in London, Paris

Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:48pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The tunes were familiar but the words were not as a troupe of deaf and blind North Koreans performed "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and songs from "The Phantom of the Opera" in Britain and France over the past week.

North Korea's "Youth Para-Ensemble", including 19-year-old blind accordionist Un Hyok Kang and seven deaf "dwarfs" fawning on a Snow White dressed in a glittery silver gown in a dance routine, put on shows in Paris, London and elsewhere in Britain over the past week.

The tour was billed as a follow-up to the participation of paralympians from one of the world's most secretive states at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.

"Dancing on the stage here was absolutely great," Hyok Ri, 14, gaily dressed in yellow and red with a floppy cap and false nose as one of the mostly over-sized "dwarfs", told Reuters through a sign-language interpreter at the Royal College of Music at the weekend.

The fairytale was danced to familiar tunes including "Whistle While You Work", sung in Korean on a recorded soundtrack, and managed to condense the Disney classic movie to about 15 minutes.

At least as tuneful was the performance of accordionist Kang, who lost his sight at the age of one and picked up the accordion at age 11.

He played several pieces with British-Korean violinist So Ock Kim, a professor of violin at the Royal Academy of Music, including selections from "Phantom" and a Hungarian-style csardas folk dance.

"I usually perform alone but being able to perform with her, even though she is not from North Korea, was really, really great," Kang said through an interpreter.   Continued...