|Learning to adapt: Choreographer Chun Yoo-oh said her passion was revived thanks to the authenticity and vividness of Vietnamese contemporary ballet. — VNS Photo
Chun Yoo-oh's private and professional world – one of dance, choreography and teaching – took a dramatic turn when her husband accepted a job in HCM City as a branch manager for a major project 11 years ago.
"At first, it was hard to live with the hot weather," she recalls. "And when I began working, there were misunderstandings caused by differences in customs and laws, and the complex administrative procedures made my business and life more difficult."
"Life and the atmosphere around were totally strange to me," she says. "But it gradually became easier."
To adapt, she began a new career as the owner of a garment and textile business based in nearby Dong Nai Province.
"The hectic business activity left me almost no time to indulge my passion," she says.
Born in the coastal city of Busan in southeastern South Korea, Chun fell in love with dancing when she was 12.
"Dancing was my first, and is, my longest lover," she said.
After graduating from Ewha Woman's University in South Korea, Chun obtained a PhD in art at the same university, and then defended a dissertation on motion in dancing at the University of Surrey..
From 1991 to 2004, she worked as a professor at Seowon University in South Korea where she also choreographed major shows.
During her early years in Viet Nam, Chun continued to remind herself that she would resume dancing and choreography soon.
Week in hospital
But it wasn't until she spent a week-long stay in the hospital for a mild illness that her dream began to take shape.
Chun says she heard a song and began visualising dance moves in her mind.
"I discovered that my soul was still moved by a tune and that I could resume my dream, although I'm no longer young," she says.
She also found inspiration in Vietnamese dance, including the shows Suong Som (The Mists), Chuyen Ke Nhung Chiec Giay (Story of Shoes) and Con Tao Xoay (The Spinning Creator).
"My passion was revived thanks to the authenticity and vividness of Vietnamese contemporary ballet," Chun says.
In 2013, she marked her comeback with the role of a coordinator for a dance show Into the Time, with the Sinawi Ensemble, one of South Korea's leading traditional music troupes, staged at the HCM City Conservatory of Music.
Last year, after nearly a year of relentless practice, Chun, in her mid-fifties, was the choreographer and the main dancer in a traditional Korean dance show Arirang Saigon about mothers and women.
Earlier last month, she choreographed the dance performance Cay No Than (Magic Crossbow) for the HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera.
Despite her busy schedule as a business owner, Chun still saves time for her hobbies, which include cooking, reading, writing, dancing and playing the kayagum, a Korean tradit-ional instrument.
"I also stroll along the Sai Gon River every day in the early morning, thinking and writing. It has become my habit for several years. I still work at the company, cook one or two family meals a day, and practice dancing before going to bed," Chun says.
On Sunday morning, Chun and her husband dine at a restaurant and take a walk, drink tea and read.
"I really enjoy the delights of strolling along the river in the morning, or the vast expanses of rubber forests far from the city, and gazing at the glittering sea when I visit the central city of Da Nang," she says. "I also want to travel to Sa Pa."
Chun says HCM City's hustle and bustle have offered her fresh ideas for dancing.
The wharf at the Sai Gon River and the rubber forests are her favourite dancing practice venues.
Now, after more than a decade in Viet Nam, she feels more at home. "It's also great to eat Vietnamese specialties like banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe), goi cuon (spring rolls) and bun bo Hue (Hue beef noodle soup), or make kimchi with the small shrimp of Viet Nam," she says.
"After reading my emails, relatives and friends in South Korea want to come to Viet Nam, which makes me happy," she adds. Although she still feels the dry season is unbearably harsh, she has adapted to it.
"When the showers come, I am very fond of them, and I no longer feel despondent," she says. "Nonetheless, I still miss my motherland of South Korea." — VNS