by Thu Anh
Young actors join drama troupes
As Viet Nam does not yet have a school to train professionally young actors, most children taking part in the industry are members of various drama troupes operating at culture houses in big cities.
Founded 20 years ago, the Tuoi Ngoc (Childhood) drama troupe of the HCM City Children's Culture House is well known, providing many young actors and models to film studios, television entertainment programmes and fashion shows.
One of the troupe's brightest stars is Hung Thuan, who joined Tuoi Ngoc when he was only nine years old.
In 1996, Thuan, 12, was chosen for playing a leading role in Dat Phuong Nam (The Southern Land), a TV series produced by the HCM City Television Film Studio. The film includes scenes of rivers, forests and boats interspersed with stories, folk songs, and traditional customs of the southern people.
Dat Phuong Nam changed the life and career of Thuan, propelling him to movie star status.
He was rated among the country's top 10 artists by audiences in 1997. Letters from millions of young fans, asking for his photos and information about his private life, streamed in after his high-profile role.
After finishing secondary school, Thuan decided to become more involved in the industry and is now a professional actor.
"I had a beautiful childhood with my peers from Tuoi Ngoc," said Thuan.
"Tuoi Ngoc's members can easily become natural film artists," said film director Nguyen Vinh Son, who has worked with several young actors.
Thirty members of Tuoi Ngoc, aged six to 15, are taking part in different TV shows and movies.
Many dramas starring Tuoi Ngoc artists have received a warm response from schoolchildren this summer vacation. These include Ngay Xua Ngay Xua (Once Upon A Time) and Tran Quoc Toan (Young Hero) from the IDECAF Drama Stage.
"After studying, I love to perform with my friends from Tuoi Ngoc. My performance has improved my confidence and living skills," said nine-year-old girl Nguyen Thu Trang.
Trang's mother, a garment worker living in Binh Thanh District, said, "My daughter can entertain herself and learn useful lessons by participating in Tuoi Ngoc."
Fitness catches on in Viet Nam
In pursuit of good health and beauty, many young Vietnamese women, particularly those in big cities, are eager to exercise or participate in sports in parks, sport centres or at home.
"For me, being beautiful is being healthy," said Vu Van Giang, sales manager at a Japanese agency in HCM City, who began studying yoga two years ago.
Giang believes that a woman today should put a premium on her health, not just her beauty, because "without it, I can't do my job well."
The 40-year-old said she often takes time out of her busy schedule to do exercise.
Giang sees many of her colleagues, male and female, working long hours and avoiding sport and even entertainment.
"Some women spend time and money to improve their appearance at beauty salons," she said, "but see little change."
After learning yoga from a foreign master, Giang discovered that it was a great way to achieve both a sound mind and body.
"I prefer doing yoga at home after work. It helps me escape from stress and keep myself peaceful and calm," she said.
Do Thi Khanh, an advertising official, visits the Women Cultural House's gymnastic centre three times a week to remain healthy and active.
"I can also meet many people and have good relationships with some of them. It makes me become more cheerful."
While Khanh, 32, who is short and thin, has never felt beautiful, her friends see her differently.
"I think they see me as more attractive because I'm healthy. I have no reason to doubt their view," said Khanh, smiling.
Giang and Khanh typify the Vietnamese women who are increasingly focused on their health much more than their beauty. They believe that beauty should equal good health. —VNS