Viet Nam News
Dancer Hà Tứ Thiên graduated from Việt Nam Dance College and is a second-year student at Hà Nội Academy of Theatre & Cinema’s Choreograph Department. He won Gold Medal with a solo solo Tễu performance at last year’s Quảng Bình dance festival, which included dancers from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.
He was born in 1994 in the northern mountainous province of Sơn La, and he is emerging as one of the top talents in Vietnamese contemporary dance. He was also the only student to win both best dancer and best choreographer at the college’s Talented Student Competition in 2014.
Culture Vulture interviewed Thiên about Tễu and his plan to stage contemporary dances based on folklore culture.
Not many spectators have gotten a chance to witness the Tễu dance which earned you Gold Medal at the dance festival in central province of Quảng Bình. Could you describe your performance?
Uncle Tễu is a typical puppet character in the Vietnamese water puppetry. He is introduces the beginning of the water puppetry performance as the commentator, critic and opposition to corrupt officials, and he follows his duty in the role of clown mocking bad habits.
At the beginning I thought that Uncle Tễu in dance would look like Uncle Tễu in water puppetry. But this was not the case. I think Tễu dance succeeded thanks to choreographers Trần Ly Ly and Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hằng who help me to express the role.
Performing the dance, I went to the stage with my upper body covered by a mat. I felt as if I was choking at that moment and my feeling was very strange. It seemed that everything stops to move and I felt a huge amount of energy which was piling up and ready to explode any time. I was afraid that the performance would fail because I was so nervous.
When I uncovered the mat, I became Uncle Tễu on the stage. The 12 minute-dance features different emotions of Tễu in daily life, with musical accompaniment by traditional drummers.
What was the most difficult part of the performance?
I’m from the Thái ethnic group. Everything is easy to Thái people. Folklore culture--tales, dances and customs--are embedded in my inner core. However, there is no character like Uncle Tễu in Thai folklore culture, so it was difficult for me to express him.
Choreographers did not show me how I would dance. They just inspire me to dance out my imaginations of Tễu. Therefore, I had to brainstorm.
It was great that Tễu was recognised by professionals and foreign colleagues at the dance festival in Quảng Bình Province. However, I believe that I can do better.
Do you want to choreograph contemporary dances based on Thai folklore culture ?
I’m not a dancer only. I would like to become a choreographer in the future. I will make good use of Thái folklore to choreograph contemporary dances. I’m nurturing ideas while I’m studying choreograph at the academy. I think that not only Thái folklore but also Vietnamese folklore inspire our art.
When I was studying at Việt Nam Dance College, I choreographed the Càng Phạ Đìn dance. The dance features the beauty of Thái girls carrying out their daily chores. It earned me the talented choreographer award at the 1st Talent Students Competition held by the college in 2014.
I think that I have to work hard and learn much from my teachers, my colleagues and many other professionals to turn my dreams into reality.
Could you tell why you began to study dance two years later than your classmates?
My mother was a dancer with Sơn La’s Art Ensemble. I became interested in dancing when I was small. At a young age I was a naughty boy who could not concentrate on anything but dance. But my mother did not want me to become dancer because it is hard work with low pay. I didn’t know my father because my parents separated when my mother was pregnant.
When I was 14 years old, I met my father who is a martial artist. I shared with him my dream of being dancer and he supported me. He came to Hà Nội to enroll me in the dance college. With strong support from my father I entered the dance college at the age of 14.
I was two years older but I was smaller than my classmates. I wasn’t afraid of weight gain, while my colleagues are always obsessed by weight.
I studied hard at the first year. Later, my study results were not good because I was absorbed in earning a living. At the fifth year my mother asked me "are you tired of indulging?" Her words wakened me and I began to concentrate on studying dancing. The change surprised my teachers. — VNS