It’s a night of Vietnamese culture. It’s a night of dancing. Most of all, it’s a night of great fun.
Saturday, January 29, 2011 was the night of Đêm Việt Nam, VSA’s annual culture show. It was listed as a 7 pm show, and started promptly at 7:20 pm. (Which, coincidentally, was exactly when I arrived – don’t try to park on Central when the folk festival is in town!) This was the fourth Đêm Việt Nam show I’ve attended, and on Saturday night, I was delighted to see all the changes that have taken place since I started going. I don’t know if it’s because I’m graduating, or if the effort was indeed larger this year, or a combination of both, but this 2011 show felt like a culmination of many years’ worth of work and publicity.
The first thing that struck me was attendance. While the balcony of the Lydia Mendelssohn theater had been reserved for performers in years past, this year, it was almost full. (It’s where I was sitting!) The entire audience felt free to cheer for their friends on stage and converse with the emcees, giving the night a collaborative, comfortable atmosphere. I could tell how much everyone onstage enjoyed and appreciated the energy from the crowd.
The show itself was bigger and better than ever, too. One of my favorite segments was a dance that highlighted the way in which the Vietnamese have been influenced by Indian customs. In a way, the night has always been a study of Vietnamese culture meeting and combining with culture in the United States, examining both the tensions and triumphs of living in a place where people from all over the world live and work side by side. The addition of the Indian-inspired dance further explored the fluidity of cultures around the world. The title of the show, “The Way We Are,” was especially fitting in this context. In this day and age, nothing is static.
Speaking of collaboration, VSA had a lot of help this year: CSN joined the women from VSA for a beautiful ribbon dance at the beginning of the show, and Element 1 joined in for the hip-hop portion of the evening. The extra voices made the night even richer.
In addition to the new dances, all the old favorites were present on stage. The traditional fan dance was energetic and well-choreographed, men and women danced together in Vietnamese garb, and B2Viet returned to showcase their boy band capabilities. The highlight, as always, was the hip-hop segment, which is only getting longer and more popular as the years progress. This year, there was even a song dedicated to breakdancing, which was an awesome thing to watch. A fashion show closed the evening, showing off the traditional dresses that are so beautifully vibrant. The hour and a half had passed by in a blur of color, music, and camaraderie.