Choreographer Tuyết Minh. Photo courtesy of HBSO
Choreographer Tuyết Minh has produced several contemporary dance performances and world-known classic ballets. However, she has a dream of bringing Vietnamese characters to the ballet stage. Minh is working with the Việt Nam Dancers’ Association and the HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) to stage Ballet Kiều, a new ballet based on Truyện Kiều (The Tale of Kiều), the 18th century literary masterpiece by the great poet Nguyễn Du, in HCM City and Hà Nội. Phương Mai talks with Minh about her effort to fulfill her dream.
Inner Sanctum: Where did your idea of bringing Vietnamese characters to the ballet stage come from?
I began staging ballet in 2003. My first productions were classical ballets Carmen and Don Quixote. Since then, I have dreamed of staging works featuring Vietnamese characteristics and culture.
I love Vietnamese literature and arts. I love the feelings and thoughts of Vietnamese people. I have learned a lot from great people like President Hồ Chi Minh, and poets Nguyễn Du and Hồ Xuân Hương. Their works are simple and easily understood.
I believe Vietnamese audiences, from youngsters to the elderly, can understand and feel these works when they are performed live on stage.
To foreign audiences who are acquainted with classical ballet, I think they will be interested in Vietnamese ballet, and learn about the differences, such as music, style, Oriental culture and humanitarian spirit. The shortest way to connect people is culture and art.
Inner Sanctum: Why was Truyện Kiều by poet Nguyễn Du your choice?
Truyện Kiều is known widely outside Việt Nam and has been translated into several languages.
I wrote the screenplay for Ballet Kiều in 2018. I received investment near the end of 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. I had time to live slowly and to look back at my life, my career and relationship with people. I saw spiritual and cultural values in Vietnamese characteristics. The solidarity and sharing became a strength to help Việt Nam win the war of COVID-19.
Since then, I have learned more about the law of cause and effect, and suddenly realised poet Nguyễn Du’s thoughts in Truyện Kiều. It is following your heart -- the path to happiness in a 100-year lifetime of a human being. It’s not easy to find the right path.
Inner Sanctum: You live and work in Hà Nội. Why did you invite HBSO to perform your ballet?
I work at the Agency of Performing Arts. I’m in charge of following activities of arts troupes in the country, so I knew that HBSO was completely suitable to my work.
HBSO has a staff of talented and experienced dancers at the appropriate age, having different personalities, such as Trần Hoàng Yến, Sùng A Lùng, Hồ Phi Điệp and Đàm Đức Nhuận.
HBSO’s choreographers Phúc Hùng and Phúc Hải are professional and have experience in staging dance performances and ballets.
I completely trust them. We all do everything to serve the common cause of popularising Vietnamese dance in the country and abroad.
After the premiere at the HCM City Opera House last weekend, Ballet Kiều will be performed to celebrate 25 years of normalised diplomatic relations under the invitation of HCM City's Việt Nam – US Friendship Association.
In August, the ballet will be brought to Hà Nội as a celebration for the National Congress of the Việt Nam Dancers Association. I expect the performance will be an opportunity for artists in the south and the north to learn more about each other. I also want to introduce young ballet talents of Việt Nam to nationwide audiences.
Inner Sanctum: In Việt Nam, ballet dancers have difficulties in developing their career. What can you do to help them?
Ballet is still not popular in Việt Nam, so ballet dancers face challenges in developing their talent and career.
Việt Nam now has a young generation of ballet dancers such as Yến, Nhuận and Điệp. They have received recognition for their contributions to the country’s dance industry with the title of Meritorious Artist. However, most Vietnamese dancers do not have many chances to demonstrate their talent.
Artist Trần Hoàng Yến in the role of Kiều in Ballet Kiều. Courtesy Photo of HBSO
I plan to bring Ballet Kiều to compete in the National Music and Dance Festival 2020. It will be an opportunity for dancers to show their talent and collect prizes.
In future, I want to stage Ballet Kiều frequently, like the À Ố Show, so dancers have more chances to express themselves on stage. I also want to turn the work into a cultural highlight of HCM City and a destination for foreign visitors. VNS