Viet Nam News
The classical ballet The Nutcracker will be performed by young dancers aged from 4 to 18 years old for the first time in Việt Nam on January 28 at the Hà Nội Opera House. The ballet is one of the most famous classic ballets performed during the Western holiday season.
About 110 dancers from Việt Nam Dance School and art centres in Hà Nội will take the Opera House’s stage under the choreography of ballet dancer Đàm Hàn Giang. Giang is the youngest artist to receive Meritorious Artist title awarded by the State and is working at Việt Nam National Opera and Ballet.
Culture Vulture interviews Giang about the first junior ballet in Việt Nam.
How did you develop the idea of presenting the ballet with young dancers?
Ballet is very beautiful. When the audience watches a ballet on stage they will see the beauty, the charm and the elegance. But they don’t know how the ballet dancers have to work hard and how much difficulty behind the limelight they have to overcome.
A ballet consists of interesting music and romantic and beautiful movements. The music in ballet is much easier for the audience to enjoy than classical music. Personally I think the professional ballet dancers are no longer innocent and pure, which are what make a ballet perfect. But our dancers can do it. That is the first reason.
The second reason is that I have taught ballet to many children at my art centre. I want them to have a chance to perform because I see their passion for ballet.
What was the greatest difficulty you encountered?
It is hard to select the best dancers. We had to organise three rounds to cast nearly 2,000 dancers. But we selected just over 100. They are gifted and strongly supported by their families. They could only spend two hours per week reheasing because the dancers are very busy with their tight studying schedule at school and many other extra classes.
Choreographing is also difficult. Choosing movements that suit the little dancers but ensure the structure and quality of a standard ballet is challenging. My task is to make the audience think they are watching professional dancers. It is really difficult because even professionals need at least one or two months to rehearse.
How did you choreograph for the different-aged dancers in The Nutcracker?
Each age group plays a suitable role. Dancers aged three will dance as mices while who are five and seven year old play soldiers. The 14 year-old dance as snow which requires them to perform difficult techniques. The dancers are young. Audiences may think they are simple movements but it is not. For a four-year-old, it is very difficult.
I also have to explain what the roles mean to help them understand well about the whole play.
Could you talk more about the dancers including the soloists?
All dancers are from four to 18 years old including Minh Thanh and Aliana Nguyễn. The two soloists just graduated from Việt Nam Dance College. They are at the very first days of their career. I invited them for the main roles because I want them to keep their passion for ballet. They are young and enthusiastic to devote for dancing.
Thanh and Aliana dance the main role but the younger dancers will also shine at the show.
There are 110 little one performing at the ballet. I don’t want to focus in the number of dancers on stage. Unlike the professional dancers, each little dancer can not perform different roles in the ballet. There are 40 dancers in the first Act and the same number in the second Act. To ensure the quality of the ballet each age group will performs five minutes.
Each age group will dance one role only. If they do well in their role it will be successful.
You have performed as a nutcracker soldier. What do you demand from Thanh, who plays the role of nutcracker soldier, and other dancers ?
Thanh’s role is one of the main roles. I’m demanding in ballet. I encourage him to show off his ability and his passion through the ballet because it is difficult for a young dancer like Thanh to take on a leading role.
I ask him to go sleep early to keep his health in good condition. At present all the dancers rehearse well but I’m still demanding. I tell all the dancers, not only Thanh, that it is performing on stage is very different from rehearsing.
The dancers need to gain over 100 per cent when they rehearse. Take for example, they spin five circles at the rehearsal but on stage they will make three because of the effects of the audience impact and stage equipment such as the lighting system.
There are many versions of The Nutcraker in the world because it is a classic. Normally, young dancers only dance in the first Act’s family scenes and rarely in the second and the third Act.
I didn’t aim to draw attention from the public when I staged the ballet. I want to popularise ballet because the art is very beautiful. I think ballet do well to nurture people’s souls.
There are many ballets which Vietnamese audiences have not had the chance to watch like The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo & Juliet and Swan Lake. I want Vietnamese audiences to watch these ballets which will be produced by Vietnamese artists including choreographers and dancers. — VNS