Culture Vulture (Oct. 03 2012)
Art-lovers in Ha Noi were treated last week to original contemporary dance pieces from Viet Nam, Belgium and Germany. The Vietnamese troupe from the Viet Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) presented Minus, a piece created by choreographer Ngoc Anh.
The second Contemporary Dance Festival that took place at the Youth Theatre in Ha Noi was a great success. The theatre was packed and the show was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
VNOB director Pham Anh Phuong talks with Culture Vulture about the show and the development of contemporary dance in Viet Nam.
What do you expect from the festival this time?
This year, VNOB continued to pursue their collaboration with the Goethe Institute and Wallonia-Brussels Delegation in Viet Nam to present the festival. With different topics, we wish to present several varieties of contemporary dance to the Vietnamese and international public and also demonstrate the cultural diversity of Europe and Viet Nam.
We also expect to promote and enhance the value of contemporary dance while creating a bridge for artists to exchange and share experiences.
This is an excellent occasion for Vietnamese artists to exchange and learn from talented artists from other countries. We expect to organise this event annually and hope to see more countries take part in the festival.
This is the second time the Contemporary Dance Festival has been held in Viet Nam. However, it has only attracted the participation of artists from three countries: Viet Nam, Belgium and Germany.
How has contemporary dance developed in Viet Nam?
Contemporary dance is still unusual to many people in the country.
It first appeared in Viet Nam in the mid-1990s and the local dance community approached it with reservations. Works produced prior to or around this time were almost all by Vietnamese dancers who had received training in Europe, or from Asian countries like China and India with a strong dance tradition.
To date, contemporary dance has lagged behind many other arts. Many audiences come to contemporary dance programmes only out of curiosity.
Why is it difficult for audiences to appreciate contemporary dance?
The introduction and promotion of contemporary dance face many difficulties in Viet Nam as the art form is still new for many Vietnamese.
Currently, Viet Nam has no troupes specialising in contemporary dance performance. In our theatre, artists now perform both classical ballet and contemporary dance forms.
Contemporary dance has been taught at the Viet Nam Dance College since 2004 and also at some art schools, but so far the country has not yet established an official contest for this art. Vietnamese contemporary dance programmes depend on non-governmental organisational funding, but in recent years, international funding for Viet Nam's art sector has fallen due to the impact of the global economic downturn.
We want to launch many contemporary dance programmes, but we don't have the right to decide the budget. That depends on the Department of Performing Arts under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Moreover, contemporary dancers need to have a great love for the art to continue the job. Dance artists in general and contemporary dancers in particular encounter many difficulties due to their limited incomes. This can explain why a number of them move to other areas or have to do part-time jobs for extra income, including those who trained abroad.
What should be done then to make Vietnamese audiences more familiar with contemporary dance, in your opinion?
I understand that Vietnamese audiences need more time to appreciate the art.
Normally as we know, it takes time for anyone to change their mentality and habits.
I still remember the late 50s, when classical ballet first appeared in Viet Nam. It took quite a long time to popularise this art among Vietnamese audiences.
Moreover, I hope Viet Nam can have a professional contemporary dance troupe to compete at international contests and create a "Made-in-Viet Nam" dance. — VNS