Choreographer Vu Ngoc Khai: Pervading the soul of Vietnamese contemporary dance

Thursday, 2019-06-27 17:20:16
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Choreographer Vu Ngoc Khai (Photo:
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NDO – Talented choreographer Vu Ngoc Khai will bring his latest dance, entitled ‘Day Gieng’ (Into the Well), to the stage of the Youth Theatre in Hanoi on June 28 within the framework of the Hanoi Dance Fest, which is co-hosted by the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB), Goethe Institut, and the French Cultural Centre in Hanoi, L’Espace.

‘Into the Well’ is a journey of Vietnamese looking for their identity, striking through cultural challenges and reflecting themselves in correlation with nature.

Vu Ngoc Khai is currently working as a dancer and choreographer at Konzert Theatre Bern, Switzerland. First starting as a ballet dancer who graduated from the Vietnam Dance Colleague in 2004, he gradually changed to neo-classical dance, and has now finally found himself embracing contemporary dance.

Khai has worked at dancing companies and theatres in Vietnam, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland. He won the first prize at the Ayang Young Choreographer Competition in 2018.

Earlier in 2016, Khai’s dance named ‘Non’ (Conical hat) gained big wows from 300 audience members, including ministers, vice-ministers, and ambassadors, at an event on European development in Luxembourg.

In his interview with the Vietnam Government Portal, Khai recalled what brought him to dance and his aspirations to pervade the soul of Vietnamese contemporary dance all around the world.

What brought you to the arts of dancing?

Choreographer Vu Ngoc Khai: It was my father’s arrangement. When I was younger, I was quite naughty and I loved sports. Honestly, when my father asked me to submit to a dancing school, I didn’t like the idea at all. But now I must thank him for this decision.

Can you share with us about difficulties facing dancers?

I have had a lot of dancing injuries. When I was a boy, I used to to suffer from sprained ankles, making my legs quite weak for learning ballet. After entering a professional working environment on dancing, I have injuries more frequently, which has posed significant consequence on my health. The most serious consequence was disc herniation, which forced me to stop dancing for one year.

You have the chance to perform with foreign dancers at international stages. What have you learnt from them?

Foreign performers possess amazing creativity, and I am happy to be engaged in such a professional dancing environment. Dancers are provided with most favourable conditions to promote their creativity at schools. It is not a matter of whether a dance is good or not, and no one has the right to judge it. This is the key to stimulate dancers’ creativity.

Ideas featured in contemporary dance have strong connections to daily life, particularly in the way people think about life. Modern life brings about more complicated thinking for everyone, particularly young people who want to express their personalities.

The language of contemporary dance is unlimited. Dancers learn about various dancing techniques at schools, such as Ballet, Cunningham, Limon, Flying Flow, Floor work, Counter Technique, and Release Technique. These techniques are developed thanks to the creativity of choreographers and dance instructors.

Vu Ngoc Khai performing his dance entitled 'Non' (Conical Hat)

Which message do you want to deliver to the audience of the Hanoi Dance Fest through your dance ‘Into the Well’?

During my performance at ‘Into the Well’, I am a man sitting in the bottom of a well looking up to witness the passing of Vietnamese culture, how it has changed, how it has been preserved and upheld. My movements in the dance are inspired by those of roosters and buffaloes at traditional festivals.

You might have made great investment in music and lighting in your dance. How have you coordinated with your co-workers for the success of the dance?

I invited Thanh Nam, a folklore drummer, and Ngoc Khanh, a veteran sona trumpeter, to join the performance. The two artists have rich experience which is inherited from their families and their work at theatres.

Do you want to leave a message to young artists who are pursuing their careers as contemporary dancers?

I think that from the very beginning young dance students should decide what they want to be, a ballet dancer, a contemporary dancer, or both. Since dance requires a lot of practice, what you practice every day will form your body and your style; therefore, things will go smoother if they are planned beforehand.

If you practice work wholeheartedly in every moment on the stage, the door will wider open for you in the future.

Thank you so much for your sharing!