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An unusual and provocative ballet for Saigon

Bradley Winterton
Friday,  Jun 9,2017,09:27 (GMT+7)
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An unusual and provocative ballet for Saigon

Bradley Winterton

The new ballet from the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet, Night Lullaby, to be premiered on Saturday June 17, will be highly original, both in the music used and in the subject-matter. It is likely to set people talking, and may even launch the company in a new direction.

Contrary to what is stated in the HBSO Spring/Summer program, the music will be taken from works by the British electronic music composer Aphex Twin. Listening to some of it during a rehearsal, it struck me as atmospheric, at times apocalyptic, and not so much music to dance to as highly effective music to accompany dancing. It should suit this daring and ground-breaking program exceptionally well.

Night Lullaby will be unusual in being created by three choreographers, rather than the company’s usual two. The brothers Nguyen Phuc Hai and Nguyen Phuc Hung, the company’s regulars, are being joined by the young dancer Sung A Lung, and the original concept for the show was apparently largely his.

Sung A Lung, who likes to add the word “Hmong” to his name, was the dancer at the center of Bolero, the final item in the program Ballet with Tchaikovsky and Ravel, last seen in the Saigon Opera House in March. He appeared center-stage on a table-like structure around which the other dancers circulated.

The subject of Night Lullaby is unusual and may be provocative to some. It concerns a young man’s desire to live, and especially to dress, as a woman. The work will be 50 minutes long, and will be performed by three dancers and a story-teller without an interval.

There were two established styles of ballet, choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hung told me, classical and contemporary. But he was interested in creating a third way, he said. Traditionally dancers expected to be told in detail what to do, but this show would be more of a collaborative effort, with the performers contributing ideas of their own on how matters should proceed. This is not surprising considering that Sung A Lung, as well as being one of the choreographers, will also dance the central role in the performance.

Nguyen Phuc Hung was full of praise for their new recruit. He was an exceptional artist, he said. Two years ago he had won the gold medal in a dance-creating competition, but Night Lullaby will be the first show he’s helped choreograph with the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet company.

As for his own biography, Nguyen Phuc Hung said he had graduated in 1994 in the same class as his brother, two years his elder, in Hanoi. They came from a family of dancers, and their father had spent his life as a choreographer with the Vietnamese army’s ballet company. The two sons also worked with the same troupe for four years before coming south to Saigon to work with their present company, in Hung’s case initially as a dancer, then from 2010 as a choreographer.

A rehearsal followed my conversation with Nguyen Phuc Hung. He directed the three main dancers to Twin’s eerily ethereal ambient music, and in so doing amply demonstrated what an outstanding dancer he was, in addition to his role of choreographer.

All in all, this should be an exceptionally interesting and pioneering show. If you can’t make it on June 17, there will be a second performance, as part of a longer program including contemporary Vietnamese orchestral and choral music, on July 9.

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Giấy phép Báo điện tử số: 321/GP-BTTT, cấp ngày 26/10/2007
Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Pham Huu Chuong
Managing Editors: Nguyen Van Thang, Huynh Cam Tung
Head Office: 35 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St., Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tel: (84.8) 829 5936; Fax: (84.8) 829 4294.
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