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​Dutch choreographers to bring Saigon café on dance stage

Friday, June 29, 2018, 20:01 GMT+7

Two Dutch artists are bringing their choreographed take on mid-20th century Saigon to the municipal Opera House this weekend.

“Café Saigon,” named with inspiration from Ho Chi Minh City’s famed milk coffee, is a co-production project between the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) and Gotra Ballet, a Dutch dance company.

Maastricht-based Gotra Ballet’s artistic director Joost Vrouenraets and his colleague Maite Guerin themed the dance after Ho Chi Minh City’s iconic coffee shop culture. 

When they presented their idea at a workshop held by HBSO this past December, the troupe decided to bring it to life as a co-production.

“We realized that coffee is like a bond that draws people together in Saigon,” Guerin said. 

“Coffee shops [in Ho Chi Minh City] are like a mini society, where all ‘tastes of life’ get together. That’s how Café Saigon was born.”

Since mid-June Vrouenraets and Guerin have been holding daily rehearsals from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with 16 HBSO dancers.

Out of those 16 artists, five men and five women have been chosen to dance as couples for the performance night.

“Football players have a fifteen-minute break, but these dancers won’t have a spare minute to rest during 75 minute show,” said Nguyen Phuc Hung, HBSO’s general director.

To design the stage, the two choreographers collaborated with the HBSO’s leading choreographers Nguyen Phuc Hung and Nguyen Phuc Hai.

Traditional music inspired by Vietnamese ethnic minorities and songs from the 1960s by American singer and songwriter Joan Baez were chosen for the performance.

Joost Vrouenraets and Maite Guerin. photo: David Peskens
Joost Vrouenraets and Maite Guerin. Photo: David Peskens

Before joining the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in 2004, Vrouenraets studied at the Amsterdam School of Arts, then the Rudra Bejart’s School in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Since then, he’s earned several awards, including “most promising choreographer” at the prestigious Nederlandse Dansdagen festival in Maastricht in 2008.

In 2005, he founded the Gotra Ballet with Guerin, who also serves as the artistic director of "Care to Dance," a program to inspire people suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Their company, Gotra Ballet, has been invited to perform at numerous schools and companies, as well as festivals such as the 2009 Festival Biarritz in and the 2010 Schrittmacher Festival in Aachen, Germany.

“Café Saigon” will premiere at 8:00 pm at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House at 7 Lam Son Square in District 1 this Saturday.

Tickets range from VND80,000 to 650,000 (US$3.52-28.6) and can be purchased at the Opera House.

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Bao Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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