Vietnamese-French choreographer Sebastien Lý. Photo courtesy of the artist
The third Krossing Over Arts Festival took place in Hồ Chí Minh City from April 5-11, and in is scheduled for April 13-21 in Hà Nội, which includes this weekend. The festival, organised by the French Institute in HCM City and French-based Kerman Dance Company, features contemporary dance performances, film and workshops on dance. Vietnamese-French choreographer Sebastien Ly, who initiated the annual festival in 2017, speaks to Việt Nam News about the event.
Why did you decide to organise the Krossing Over Arts Festival?
In April 2016 I returned to Việt Nam to find inspiration for my new dance. I followed my grandparents’ steps to learn about my origins. My grandparents were born in Huế in the central region and grew up in the coastal city of Vũng Tàu in the south, and then moved to HCM City.
During my days in Việt Nam I had the chance to meet talented Vietnamese artists as well as arts directors. One of them was Mr Jean-Philippe Rousse (director of the French Institute in HCM City). The meeting marked a turning point in my life. Since then my arts career has taken a new step. It has developed strongly.
I am happy to be part of the Vietnamese artist community. They gave me a strong belief in organising the Krossing Over Arts Festival. I promise to devote all my energy to the festival.
Why did you choose the theme “The Root” for this year's festival?
The theme of this year’s festival was “Cội Rễ” (The Root). And that’s the reason I returned to Việt Nam, my motherland.
To me, our origins is very important. When a society is developing quickly, we need to always remember our origins.
The image of “Cội Rễ” is shown through a root absorbing nutrients from plants, but it can be a metaphorical image of our ancestors and grandparents.
And every dance performance or film screening features this topic.
This year, we had the pleasure of welcoming choreographer Kader Attou, director of National Choreographic Centre in La Rochelle, France. He will bring the dance The Roots, a powerful performance which has already toured all over Europe, and also the US, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.
We also will see performances by talented Vietnamese choreographers, such as Cây Đời (Tree of Life) by Vietnamese-Canadian John Huy Trần, and Lub qhov rooj (The Door) by Nguyễn Phúc Hùng and Sùng A Lùng.
Could you tell us about your performance?
I brought my latest dance Ngưỡng Cửa Ký Ức (At the Gate of Oblivion) to the festival. The dance was created right after my grandparents passed away. I wanted to write and retain my memories about them. That’s why I returned to Việt Nam.
My performance mainly talks about the passing and birth as well as every dancer’s story and mine also. Every person coming to my performance is offered a paper to write down his or her memories. And every dance move is based on the audience’s story.
I want to share a private memory with you. Before my grandmother passed away, I asked her for her memories. We sat together at the table in the dining room. I switched on my recorder and asked my grandmother to read me a verse in Vietnamese.
At that time, I didn’t know what it meant. I was born in France, so I knew only a little Vietnamese. Later, thanks to help from the French Institute, I knew my grandmother read for me an excerpt from Kim Vân Kiều (The Tale of Kiều, written in the early 19th century by the great Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Du).
A few months before my grandmother passed away, she told me we should return to Việt Nam together one time. Sadly, she passed away.
I’m very happy to bring my memories of my grandmother back to Việt Nam.
I’m happy meeting again artists like John Huy Trần, a choreographer with the Urban Dance Group Việt Nam. He has played a very important role in the festival because he was the first to join and support the Krossing Over Arts Festival.
In 2017 and 2018, the Krossing Over Arts Festival was held only in HCM City. Why have you taken it to Hà Nội this year?
In the last two years I was asked by many artists and people in Hà Nội why didn’t I bring Krossing Over to the capital. But I was not in a position to do that.
This year I will take the festival to Hà Nội. We have introduced 12 dance performances, three film screenings, and five workshops in HCM City, but only some will be brought to Hà Nội.
These shows will take place at the Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) Theatre, Kinergie Studio, Six Space and L’Espace from April 13 to 21. I expect this will satisfy art lovers in the capital. VNS