A ballet piece set to the music of Trinh Cong Son songs will be performed by Ballet Austin II and the Thang Dao Dance Company at the Rose Center in Westminster in 3 shows this weekend, featuring live voice of the one singer whose career is associated with Trinh’s music – Khánh Ly.
Trinh Cong Son is a social-commentary troubadour often called the Bob Dylan of Vietnam (except that Bob Dylan has never heard of him). He is revered by many and reviled by others as either the voice of peace or the traitor in wartime Vietnam. Some accuse him of Communist leanings, but it doesn’t matter really because he’s been dead for a decade now.
Choreographer Thang Dao, a Vietnam-born New Yorker, set Trinh’s music to ballet and performed it to audience acclaims in Austin and Houston.
He’s bringing his piece, entitled “Quiet Imprint,” to the heart of the Vietnamese-American community in Orange County. It will be playing at the Rose Center in Westminster at 7pm on Saturday 10/8, and at 4pm and 8pm on Sunday 10/9.
Khánh Ly has always been considered something of the yardstick against which all singers of Trinh Cong Son’s several hundred songs is measured. (Except for just a couple songs where other people are the standard.) She will be singing the songs live as the dancers perform.
The name “Quiet Imprint” is a translation of the title of one of Trinh Cong Son’s songs, “Vết Lăn Trầm.”
The Bolsavik exchanged Facebook messages with Thang Dao. A Vietnamese version of the interview appears on Nguoi Viet.
The Bolsavik (NV): What inspires you to use Trinh Cong Son’s music for ballet?
Thang Dao: Khanh Ly’s voice inspired me to use TCS’s music. Her deliverance of the songs are sonic narratives. She is able to convey the the spirit of Trinh’s song and bring life to the lyric within each song.
NV: Is Vietnamese music something you listen to regularly?
Thang Dao: I have reconnected with Vietnamese music since I started working on Quiet Imprint. The two voices that I listen to frequently are Khánh Ly and Thái Thanh.
NV: People think of ballet as classical and Trinh Cong Son as, well, not classical. Pop. How has the merger worked out?
Thang Dao: Ballet is classical, but Trinh’s music is more rock than pop, at least the genre in which one would describe the sound, melody and rhythm of Trinh’s music. Ballet is a form of communication, at least storytelling from the romantic period and courtly life; Khanh Ly’s voice has nuances and colors in her singing that can reflect the narrative of the songs as opposed to performance pagentries and vocal techniques. Therefore the integration of ballet and Khanh Ly’s performance can carry the narrative proposed in Quiet Imprint. Both are forms of communication that complement each other.
NV: How did the audience react when you previously perform this?
Thang Dao: Quiet Imprint premiered in Austin in March 2010 and October 2010. It came to Houston in April 2011 and now here in Orange County. The audience have been receptive and gracious. Many people found Quiet Imprint cathartic and resonant and are able to identify with the songs, stories, and dance.
NV: Why is it that some Vietnamese may go into classical music but not a lot of Vietnamese go into ballet dancing?
Thang Dao: I don’t think that phenomenon applies solely with just Vietnamese people. Most nations herald classical music, but not ballet because ballet is too close to the body thus too sexually provocative. With an instrument, the body is removed and so do the desires that are associated with the human body.
NV: After Quiet Imprint, any other project for ballet based on Vietnamese music?
Thang Dao: After Quiet Imprint, I hope to create more ballets. I am open to all source of inspirations and if the next one happens to have a Vietnamese identity, I would welcome it with open arms. Maybe something about Saigon, a name that inspired so many and lives quietly in all of us. Saigon was our Vienna. Maybe Truong Tri My Nuong or Chuyen Tinh Lan va Diep ballets.
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Thang Dao was born in Danang, Vietnam. He currently resides in New York City as a free-lance choreographer while directing his own company, the Thang Dao Dance Company. Thang received his formal dance education from the Juilliard School and the Boston Conservatory. He holds a BFA in dance from The Boston Conservatory and an MA from New York University.
Thang danced for the Stephen Petronio Company from 2001-2006, as well as with the Metropolitan Opera and Little Orchestra Society. He has presented his works in Boston, New York City, and Austin, with acclaimed reviews by The Boston Globe, Austin 360 and The New York Times. Most recently, he created Echoes for Ailey II, soon to be presented at the Joyce Theatre in New York.
In 2006, his ballet Stepping Ground, choreographed on Ballet Austin for the 1st Biennial New American Talent/Dance, received the Audience Choice Award on all four nights. Thang is also the recipient of the 2008 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship and the 2009 Special Project Grant for Quiet Imprint, his latest work for Ballet Austin II.