HCM CITY — This month, the Arabesque company – an independent dance company based in HCM City – will leave for the US to perform The Mist in its first-ever tour in the country.
The group will visit St Louis, Washington DC, Birmingham and San Diego between October 24 and November 16.
The company was invited by Center Stage, a programme produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts for the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Alexander Titolo, public affairs officer for the US Consulate General in HCM City, said the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which produced the Trey McIntyre Dance Group’s performance held in Viet Nam in 2012, was so impressed with Arabesque’s work story that it nominated the dance company for the Center Stage programme.
“As we look forward to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the normalisation of relations between the US and Viet Nam, we value every opportunity to continue the progress that has been made to enrich the relationship between the two countries,” Titolo said.
“The US government sponsors groups like Arabesque to not only share knowledge between artists internationally but also to share Vietnamese culture with Americans, thereby strengthening our bond and inviting further conversation between our people,” he added.
By using the small gestures that define everyday relationships in Vietnamese culture, The Mist has captured the rhythm of daily life, combining traditional and modern forms in a performance that has captivated audiences.
“I hope our new version of The Mist will be successful in the US because it has touched the hearts of many audiences,” dancer and director of Arabesque company Nguyen Tan Loc said.
The Mist is expected to be staged at the HCM City Opera House on a regular basis from January 2015.
Reminiscent of farm life
Loc, an alumnus of Tokyo’s Fujisato Ballet Company, has vivid memories of his grandparents’ home in southern Ben Tre Province, where his father was born.
When the 46-year-old choreographer was invited to take part in the Daegu Modern Dance Festival in South Korea in 2011, he incorporated those memories into his dance The Mist, so named because it reminded him of the atmosphere of farm life in the rural south.
Loc said he wanted Korean audiences to learn about Viet Nam’s wet-rice civilisation, with beautiful images of farmers rowing boats on rivers, singing and talking while working in fields and visiting pagodas together.
To appeal to a broader audience, both young and old, he created a piece using contemporary dance movements accompanied by the rhythm of traditional zithers and percussion instruments.
“Most Vietnamese have had a father or forefather who were farmers producing rice for our daily meals. But we sometimes forget our roots,” Loc said.
Before creating the work, Loc and his dancers visited the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
“Travelling to the countryside, I saw that Viet Nam has beauty but sometimes we forget it or ignore it,” he said. “I created the dance to remind myself and my friends of this. Although we eat rice every day, we seem to forget how hard-working farmers are.”
The dancers spent several days in the Delta provinces of Ben Tre, Can Tho and Hau Giang so they could see firsthand the beauty of the land and the hard life of the farmers who provide them with food.
Asked about the name of the dance piece, Loc explained that the mist, like farmers, was often taken for granted, appearing in the early morning and late afternoon, day after day.
“I wanted to compare the mist to the daily life and the hard work of generations of families. I really wanted to express my great respect for them and do my best to depict their lives on stage,” he said.
After The Mist was performed in South Korea, Loc said the deputy mayor of Daegu city held back tears, telling him that the dance had reminded her of Korea’s past.
She described the dance as “beautiful, rustic and powerful”, he said.
“Her words motivated me to work harder for a much better show. In the past, we used recorded music, but now we have live music,” he said.
After the performance, the Korean organisers invited the group to perform at the festival annually.