Le Vu Long review <font size=2>by Van Diep</font> Mar 9, 2007
by Tania Kupczak
I’m Vietnamese American. My father is rabidly anti-communtist. I grew up with two Vietnamese cousins who are deaf. I work at an arts organization that is Audio-based.
Is any of that important? Not really.
The New York Times’ preview of this show discussed the lack of Vietnamese American community support for Stories of Us. Interesting. When I first saw this show in the OTB catalogue, I wondered, “What’s this doing in Seattle? ” After all, Seattle’s Vietnamese American community are mostly refugees from South Vietnam. I’m one of them. This show is billed as the work of a “Hanoi-born ” choreographer. Basically throwing down the gauntlet as far Vietnamese American politics is concerned. (Hanoi is the capitol of what was communist -led North Vietnam and is now the current national capitol of the Republic of Vietnam) The main selling points of this show, at least to the general public, are the marginalized stories of deaf, gay, HIV-positive communities in Vietnam. A loaded bill, even without the communist angle. Remove Le Vu Long’s association with Hanoi, and you still have abstract modern dance with post-modern themes - try selling that to any recent immigrant.
Remove all the community specific trappings of this performance – gay, deaf, Vietnamese, HIV-positive – you still have a compelling performance.
With minimal stage design (a white square on the floor and paper scrolls, hung vertically to create a backdrop and various rooms), the performance, lighting design, and music were the main focus. Six dancers, three men/three women, all portraying a character type. A dj/musician was tucked in booth to the right of the stage, clearly visible, and a part of the live performance. Unexpected for this show that emphasizes its deaf community ties. I suppose the thump of the bass in the techno tracks helps the deaf dancers find their tempo.
Throughout the hour-long performance, emotional displays ranged from indignation, domination, fear, surprise, longing, resignation, loneliness. I was hoping for some flashes of joy and humor. Perhaps this is my only letdown about the performance. I was looking for a range of experience and story in Stories of Us.
This look into Vietnamese contemporary performance is a rare glimpse into modern Vietnam. The communist government suppresses contemporary art - visual, film, music, theater, and dance – as well as other forms of expression. I’m hoping OTB and other local presenters will take the risk of bringing politically controversial performance work from Asia and other parts of the world. Willingly or not, the hyphenated Americans will benefit.