by Thu Anh
For the love of art
It is generally acknowledged that there has been a renaissance of art in Viet Nam over the last few decades, and many Vietnamese artists – pianists, violinists and so on – have achieved international recognition.
However, there are some art forms that have languished, and artists who have devoted their lives to them for many years have relatively nothing to show for their hard work and commitment.
"I feel very sad when I realise that ballet is not popular with local youth and dancers have to face so many difficulties," said To Nhu, one of HCM City's very few professional ballet dancers.
She said many young ballet dancers, who spend at least seven years training in school, have turned to other fields such as films and fashion because "they can't earn a living with their art".
Unlike her younger colleagues such as Hong Chau and Phuc Hung from the HCM City Ballet and Symphony Orchestra, Nhu is a freelance dancer. She also works as a dance teacher for children at the HCM City Cultural House for Children.
Nhu's passion for ballet dancing began when she was just a child. When she was five, she studied with professional dancers at the HCM City Cultural House for Children. Later she was one of the first Vietnamese artists to learn ballet in Russia.
In 2003, she received a scholarship from the Bates University in Lewiston City in the US state of Maine.
"The trip to Lewiston made me feel very proud of my work. I'm a Vietnamese dancer and I am very confident working with foreign peers who have better working conditions than I do," said Nhu.
Nhu is a key dancer in many programmes organised at city theatres. She performed in Khoanh Khac Mua Xuan (The Moment of Spring), Carmen, Don Quixote and Swan Lake, directed by well-known choreographers Kim Quy and Hoang Phi Long.
Despite the limitations for her art in Viet Nam, she has not chosen to leave her profession.
"I want to follow in my teachers' footsteps, teaching little angels who will become professional dancers in the future," said the 41-year-old dancer. Nhu said even the most talented dancers will "look like amateurs if they are not well-trained. And that happens all too often in Viet Nam".
At a time when even big companies like the Ha Noi-based Viet Nam Ballet and Opera Theatre face a shortage of dancers, Nhu is determined to stay the course.
"I want to improve the arts, particularly to address the challenges that young dancers face," she said.
The secret to her perseverance in a difficult market is that Nhu values her profession because "one can dance anywhere and anytime.
"And no one, nothing can limit the passion for dancing."
Do Nguyen Anh Thu is usually in a hurry to get home after classes at her university. She has no time for chatting and hanging out with friends. She tells her classmates that she has to make dinner for her husband.
But Thu is not married, and her partner is a student himself.
Living in a tiny room in Ha Noi's Thanh Xuan District, Thu and her boyfriend share the rent.
Living together before marriage would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but more young couples in Ha Noi and HCM City are doing it.
Most of the youth, who come to the cities to study from other provinces, say the live-in arrangement comes out of the need for a caring companion with whom to share difficulties.
"I've lived with my boyfriend since I was a second-year student. No one in our families knows about our relationship," said Thu, a native of Hai Phong City.
The 19-year-old said she and her partner are sure of their love but not sure whether their relationship will continue.
"After my university course, I want to find a job here, but my boyfriend must return to his home in Phu Yen Province to work for his family," she said.
After becoming pregnant last month, Thu had to have an abortion.
Many educators and parents are worried about the increasing number of young couples choosing to live together.
A recent survey of students from five universities in HCM City and three in Ha Noi showed that 70 per cent find living together acceptable, and many of them are doing it.
The survey also showed that a large percentage of students had a boyfriend or girlfriend, and a majority of them were having sex as well.
Experts are concerned about this trend.
"Student couples are too young and inexperienced to understand this seriously. They are having sex, but they lack sex education. This leads to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and a higher risk of contracting HIV or AIDS," said Dr Nguyen Thi Minh Nga of the HCM City Counselling Centre.
Nga said local youth and women's associations should offer programmes that provide young people with information on sexual relations, contraception, reproductive health care and sexually transmitted diseases.
She said a failure by the youth to understand the implications of living together, starting a family and raising children would create serious social problems in the future. — VNS