When it’s time for ‘The Mist’ to begin, the lights dim and darkness and silence descend. Roosters then begin to crow, and everything, including plants and flowers, are covered in mist. The darkness gradually lifts and some light reappears. On stage, farmers begin to work.
The activities and sounds of the early morning create a sense of excitement. The young men and women work hard in their paddy fields, and their quick and strong movements, accompanied by musical instruments, recreate the stirring atmosphere of the early morning. Excitement spreads throughout the audience.
‘The Mist’ depicts farming life at daybreak, such as planting paddy and harvesting. Other scenes, such as night in the countryside, silk making, storms and even temples and pagodas appear on stage one after another, leaving an impression on the audience.
What is happening on stage reflects what farmers, young and old alike, usually do on their farms every day. They start work before daybreak, when mist can be found. They work in their fields or get together at markets, with the noise of people talking to one another in the background. Other sounds include those made by someone sweeping their yard after a storm or from people preparing things for a trip to the market. There are also rooster crows and people clapping their hands, trying to kill mosquitoes. The sounds and images are so lifelike.
‘The Mist’ helps Vietnamese people recall familiar experiences and introduces foreigners to scenes from the countryside. The set is a Vietnamese village with a hedge, a bamboo bridge and an earthen pot of rice, which is placed in the theatre before the show begins. This helps foreigners better understand different cultural features in Vietnam.
The show has been performed at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House for more than a year. From choreographer Tan Loc, it’s performed by actors from the Arabesque Company and was first performed in 2011 and now hundreds of times in Vietnam and overseas.
While there have been improvements made over time, the main idea behind ‘The Mist’ remains the same. For instance, the modern dances, stage designs and lighting are the same, but the music has been improved to make it more lifelike and interesting.
‘Such things make the show livelier and are in keeping with a high-quality, modern dance show,’ said Tan Loc.
Dance shows have struggled to find popularity in Vietnam but modern dance shows like The Wood, the Story about the Shoes, Straw and The Mist from Arabesque have attracted large audiences, both Vietnamese and foreigners. Tan Loc and the actors have also organised workshops at schools and the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Culture House to make dance shows better known among the general public.
He recalled his ‘shock’ at an event at the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Culture House when Arabesque was performing a show for hundreds of students. He asked how many had been to a dance show before, and only one hand was raised. Many did not know where they could go to see dance shows. This encouraged him to make a greater effort to introduce more modern dance shows to the public more often.
Passion for dance
Choreographers Nguyen Tan Loc, Nguyen Ngoc Anh, and Vu Ngoc Khai share the same great passion for dance shows, with all having studied dance and become famous abroad. They have designed and directed several dance shows in Hong Kong, the UK, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. One day they got together and shared ideas on a new modern dance show in their home country, and from this came the Arabesque Dance Group in 2005.
Arabesque initially had about ten members, who performed at events, music shows and fashion shows. It became the Arabesque Company in 2008 when they began to make significant investments in the production of professional dance programs at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House. It has proved that modern dance shows are able to reflect real life.
‘Vietnamese people tend to enjoy free shows, but how can actors make a living from free shows?’ Tan Loc asked. Arabesque was the first company to organise artistic programs without invitations, and their shows have attracted large numbers of people, especially other artists.
‘The audience’s appreciation of the efforts of the actors has given great encouragement to all us to continue to work even harder in our careers, which are often described as a “painful passion”,’ Tan Loc said.
The Mist is being performed at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House on the 15th, 16th and 22nd & 23rd days of each month. Each show lasts for 60 minutes, beginning at 6pm on weekdays and 8pm on weekends. Tickets are from VND630,000 to VND1,470,000. Anyone interested can visit their website at www.luneproduction.com, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the hotline on 01245181188 to book tickets.