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Monday,  Dec 18,2017,08:28 (GMT+7)

A new dance show from Arabesque

Bradley Winterton
Friday,  Sep 15,2017,22:45 (GMT+7)
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A new dance show from Arabesque

Bradley Winterton

“Artists receive, from their cultural inheritance as well as from their professional experience,” choreographer Nguyen Ngoc Anh told me recently. “For artists, the beauty of life is to return this in our performances. Thus, by using traditional Vietnamese culture, I hope to give some of it back again, but in a new format.”

HCMC’s independent dance company, Arabesque, is presenting its latest creation, The Ballerina, in the Opera House on September 23 and 24, starting at 8 p.m., and Nguyen Ngoc Anh is in town to create it.The ballerina in question is Vietnam’s Ngo Thuy To Nhu, but there’s more to the show than her star-studded career on the ballet stage.

“I danced a duet with her in Arabesque’s The Mist in 2013,” Nguyen Ngoc Anh said, “and I thought it would be nice to stage a show in her honor.”

The Ballerina will last an hour and a half and will be in three parts. First there will be 35 minutes of extracts from the classical ballets Don Quixote and Paquita. Next will come ten minutes devoted to the life and work of Ngo Thuy To Nhu, including her training in Ukraine (Kiev) and her continuing work with Arabesque in Saigon.

After an Intermission there will be an entirely different section, lasting 45 minutes, inspired by Vietnamese “dong ho” traditional painting. The music will be Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, but in the revised version by the post-modern and minimalist composer Max Richter, released as recomposed by Max Richter by Deutsche Grammophon in 2012.

Anyone who thinks they know the Vivaldi work will be taken aback by this mysterious, energetic and magnetically beautiful music, which as well as totally re-imagining the composition makes it supremely evocative and eminently suitable for contemporary dance. It has had over a million and a half hits on YouTube, and topped the iTunes classical chart in the UK, Germany and the US. It’s a brilliant idea of Arabesque’s to use it.

Seeing that Paquita and Don Quixote may well be new to some ears, the addition of this Max Richter work makes this a stunningly attractive program.

The classical first half will apparently be danced on a bare stage without scenery. The short middle section will feature a duet danced by Ngo Thuy To Nhu and Nguyen Ngoc Anh, plus a clip about Ngo Thuy To Nhu’s work, while the evening’s second half will, not unexpectedly, contain visuals featuring “dong ho” painting.

The music for the ten-minute middle section has again been taken from Max Richter, this time from his eight-hour composition entitled Sleep, released in 2015. Needless to say, only a short extract will be used.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh is currently based in Hong Kong, and will take up a full-time post teaching dance at the Academy of Performing Arts there immediately after The Ballerina. Earlier he spent some ten years in the UK, working with the celebrated Random Dance, and other dance companies, in London, and with the Phoenix Dance Theatre in Leeds.

This new production will be overseen by Arabesque’s artistic director Tan Loc Nguyen who has recently been away judging the Korean International Modern Dance Competition, an event that involved 12 different countries.

Arabesque has always stood for innovation and for the unexpected. Their previous shows have drawn large audiences as well as critical acclaim, not least in Saigon Times. This new venture looks as if it will be up to the company’s usual high standard, and may well even exceed it.

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