Two months ago, I had the privilege to shadow and train with a Vietnamese circus production!!
Mr. Tuan Le is an Ex-Cirque du Soleil Juggler, and the director of Xiec Lang Toi, a Hanoi based circus show which illustrates the life of a Vietnamese village through acrobatics, juggling, and theater acts. It is currently touring Europe.
Now, his production team is mustering up a new show based in Saigon and soon to be touring the world as well! Mr. Tuan Le and his creation team which includes French-Vietnamese Mr. Lan Maurice Nguyen, were cool enough to allow me to shadow the group during their workshop and training phase! (Just to make it clear, I'm not part of the circus!)
It was truly an honour, and they all made me feel very comfortable from the get go!
How in the world did I end up there you ask? ha ha ! Well to make a long story short, I was in desperate search for a place where I could resume with gymnastics (my long lost love from childhood), but without success. And one day, my dad sent a youtube link about Xiec Lang Toi .... and that's when I saw a light bulb :)
With the intentions of connecting with the acrobats of the Xiec (Vietnamese for Circus; actually derived from the French "Cirque"), I contacted Mr. Tuan Le, and next thing you know, I'm training alongside this amazing group at the Ho Chi Minh circus tent in the downtown area.
The group of performers consists of about 20 young adults (and one child I believe), and they all specialize in different acts. Some of them are stuntmen and martial artists, whom I also trained with separately every morning (from 11 am to 1:30pm) in a gymnasium at the west end of the city (I'll talk about that later). The circus workshop training started at 2pm and ended at around 9 pm from Monday to Thursday. I wasn't able to attend the entire thing because I also had to teach throughout the week. But it's all good! ha ha, because damn! that was a LOT of training! Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and a lot was learned!
|The first two weeks of the new circus show training was held in this circus tent, right in the middle of downtown, more specifically right by the backpacker's area. Only on the weekend, this place functions as a traditional circus for the public. Some of its members now work for the Mr. Tuan Le's production.|
After a thorough warm up, the performers work on artistic development and expression. (My favorite part :) ) After which they get into groups and collectively come up with ideas based on a poetry or song, and perform it later. So basically, they improvise with the use of bamboo boats and other bamboo apparels, to create a sort of mini circus act! Lots of ideas and inspirations are derived from these practices and the directors watch very attentively (as you can see below) while the camera keeps a record of everything.
|One group performs while the other watches. |
Above to the left is a very enthusiastic and talented stunt guy. Oups, I never got his name. To the right is Duyen. She introduced me to the Stunts-Acrobatics and Martial arts club.
|Me and some of the artists. |
|At one point, we had to do an exercise which consisted of releasing our inner emotions while having eye contact with another person. I don't know why but a bit too much emotions came out of me which surprised quite a few people since it was my first day there! I started balling like crazy! Oh man, I will always remember that day.... (looks like someone's got some repressed sadness....... heh heh... gulp .) Anyway, Duy (in the pic) was one of the two people I cried with... Yes, I did say "one of..." and yes, I also said "cried with"... Hey emotions are contagious, what can I say.....|
|A meeting at the end of a long day!|
|Always present during the intensive workshop-training are (from left to right): Mr. Lan Maurice Nguyen, the artistic director. Chi Phuong, a professional dancer and the choreographer. And to my left, Mr. Tuan Le, the director. |