Lauren Edson, TMP's Boise-grown dancer, sent this from Guangzhou, China. That's where the company is today. This entry covers her time in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and a bit of Guangzhou.
Our time in Vietnam was filled with many experiences that left lasting impressions on all of us.
On our day off in Hanoi, we had some time to venture to a part of the city called the Old Quarter, a historical area that has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. It’s famous for its artisans and merchants. While here, some of us watched a water puppet show, while others shopped and walked through the Quarter snapping photos of temples and trying very hard to navigate the sea of motorcyclists speeding through the streets—it was imperative to look both ways before crossing. We were very impressed by the cyclists’ fashionable helmets, however. (Trey and a few others bought fancy helmets when we got to Ho Chi Minh City, and are anxious to sport them when riding their bikes back home in Boise.)
The next day, we took part in a cultural exchange with the Theater of Vietnam Music, Dance and Song. We began by showing each other some of our own unique movements and then without any hesitation, jumped right into learning the each other's work. TVMDS’s movement appeared to be a fusion of traditional Vietnamese dance with more contemporary vocabulary. The contemporary moves felt a bit closer to home and were easier to pick up than some of the previous techniques we learned in the Philippines.
Pictured below: TMP with members of Theater of Vietnam Music, Dance and Song.
Next, we had the privilege of visiting an orphanage called the SOS Children’s Village. This program nurtures and educates about 150 children, ranging from 3- to 18-years-old: They are cared for until they are able to live on their own and have the tools needed to care for themselves. Throughout the years, the directors of the program have had the pleasure of seeing many kids grow up, get married and start families of their own. When we stepped off the bus, children were anxiously waiting for us with bright smiles—and roses for us. After performing a short piece, we got them moving and taught them some dance steps. It was an absolute pleasure to see the joy of dance resonate in each of them and translate so seamlessly, despite our inability to communicate with words.
For our final day in Hanoi, we performed at the Au Co Art Center along with the TVMDS. To end the joint performance, we showed the movements we had learned from each other the day before. It was wonderful to unite though movement, and take one last bow together. The loud cheers in the audience indicated what a momentous event it was to have an American and Vietnamese company sharing the stage.
The next day we continued our adventures with a short 2½ hour plane ride to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the largest city in Vietnam.
Pictured below: TMP billboard in Ho Chi Minh City
When we arrived, Chanel (DaSilava) and I went in search of some food. We happened upon Pizza Hut and Starbucks but were looking for authentic Vietnamese cuisine. We eventually found a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant—the food was delicious!
One experience that had a big impact on me in Ho Chi Minh City was our visit to the Disability Resource and Development Center.
The DRD is a facility where people with disabilities can meet, exchange ideas, and participate in activities with people without disabilities on the basis of equal opportunity and mutual support. It was inspiring to see how dance can unite us all in such beautiful ways and despite our differences we can connect with each other as human beings. After TMP performed, the DRD dancers showed us some of the dances they had been working on. We followed the show with a question-and-answer period. One woman stood up and said, “I’m so happy. Just so happy.” She was able to put into words the mutual feelings of joy we all shared at that moment.
We are now Guangzhou, China, about 75 miles from Hong Kong. After we got settled into our hotel, we had some time to throw in another load of laundry. The extreme heat and humidity is really taking a toll on our clean clothing supply.
Today was a much-needed day of rest. Some of us however, saved the resting for later and woke up very early to observe a group of Chinese men and women of all ages practice Tai Chi in Martyrs’ Park, near our hotel. This group meets every morning around 8:30 a.m. to practice their art form together then members continue for two hours on their own. The movements are characterized by slow and fluid hand gestures, which we learned is practiced for both defense training and health benefits. Our time in China is already off to a great start. Maybe, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll wake up each morning to practice Tai Chi in the park, too.
Pictured below: Tai Chi in Martyrs' Park.
Photos are provided by Trey McIntyre Project.