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Behind the Curtain: My Village

Aerialists flying through jungles of bamboo sticks, jugglers and acrobats delicately walking on movable bridges; twenty artists and musicians came together to reinterpret the daily life of Northern Vietnamese villages. After touring around the world for three years, My Village (Làng Tôi) arrives for the first time in Saigon at the majestic Opera House.

Created by the same authors behind A O Show (Tuan Le, Nhat Ly Nguyen and Lan Nguyen), it is inevitable to compare the two and to see them as an organic, unified production. However, My Village was conceived in 2009 with the desire to establish an authentic Vietnamese Cirque Nouveau.

The authors apply a similar creative composition and process, neither of the shows are based on a scripted story, instead they rely on both the music (performed live by 20 musicians) and the diverse circus choreographies to illustrate the life and world of the North (My Village) and the South (A O) of the country.

Despite having found A O more dynamic and engaging, probably due to its fast-moving pace and a stronger imprint of contemporary elements (or maybe because I live in the South of and I can relate to it more), My Village has its own strengths and unique personality.

With the exception of the breath-taking aerialists’ choreographies, in which the performers are wildly swinging through moving bamboo stick compositions; the atmosphere recreated is more subdued, both in the aesthetics of the layout - from the colours of the costumes to the  lighting – and in the style of the acts, which focus more on the circus’s tradition. What it lacks at times in energy, it compensates with execution and skilfulness, thanks to the cast who come from the Vietnamese National Circus and have ten years of training behind under their belts.

The entire performance is an interpretation of the life in a hypothetical Northern village, where people are busy working in the field and dealing with members of the community. As in A O, the authors cleverly use typical Vietnamese objects to build rafts, nest, stilt houses and bridges, suspended in the air as backgrounds for the artists to perform on.

As the South East Asian art scene is growing overall, its artistic programmes are gaining the strength to develop shows that do not necessary need to appeal to westerners.

A O and My Village have often been compared to the world-renown Cirque the Soleil, partly because director Tuan Le works with the Canadian company, but mainly due to similarities in the presentation (continuous live music accompanies performers in building the scenes around a specific theme or story). I admit that this might set foreign spectators’ expectations up to western performing arts’ aesthetics, however in order to truly appreciate them, visitors ought to keep in mind that both shows were conceived to portray Vietnam and inevitably are strongly linked to its culture, history and artistic heritage.

My Village will be at Saigon Opera House until the end of April, before going back to Hanoi. You can buy tickets for the show via

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