Tuan Le brings the memories of his childhood to the stage in a performance that has, and continues to, transcend both time and cultures.
It’s been exactly a decade since internationally renowned performer Tuan Le first created Lang Toi (My Village), a circus performance that melds Vietnamese culture and tradition with contemporary circus and dance.
The inspiration behind this 10-year production came from Le’s memories of childhood – a time in Vietnam where people sang together, built together, lived together and connected with nature.
“In the show everything is handmade,” Le explains. “Performers build a house on stage with bamboo, which is what actually used to happen. A lot of these traditions don’t exist anymore in [Vietnamese] daily life, but I have tried to recreate and bring them back into my show so that international and local audiences can understand and be aware of the value of this culture.”
Le brings his village to life by repurposing traditional Vietnamese elements on stage – from juggling with bamboo, to playing traditional instruments.
“We decided to use bamboo, not just as a stage decoration, but also as a new circus technique,” he says. “The traditional instruments are used to create a new ambience that people can feel.
“Each of our shows has a foundation inspired by tradition, but we don’t retell any stories that exist before, we just work with our creativity to create emotion that we hope transfers to our audiences.”
Performing arts has always run through Le’s veins. Le’s grandma was a ballerina, his grandfather an orchestra conductor; while his parents, a musician and a theatre director, fostered a performing arts environment for their children, which clearly rubbed off.
“My two older brothers were involved in music and circus arts,” Le recalls. “One of my older brothers – who graduated from a Russian circus school – returned to Vietnam when I was about five years old and started to train me to be a juggler. At that time it was just for fun, but I soon grew a passion and started to perform in the Circus of Saigon.”
Le’s passion has since seen him work for the likes of Berlin’s Ufa Fabrik and Cirque du Soleil. But it’s his love of Vietnamese culture and tradition that’s brought him home.
The first time I came back to Vietnam, I visited the villages and really fell in love with the nature of this country,” Le says. “However, I saw there was no structure in Vietnam at all in general, to build performing arts projects.”
Le’s initial action was to help build a performing arts system that would support local artists and given them a platform that would grow organically by itself – Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam.
“In 2012 we had only about 20 people, and now we have almost 200 people working with us year-round – performers, musicians and office staff,” Le says. “We even have three locations across Vietnam that our performances are showcased.”
Those performances – Lang Toi, A O Lang Pho and Teh Dar – have earned the Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam an international reputation as one of the world’s most innovative circus performance companies, and has brought them to places like Paris, Sydney and now, much to our joy, Perth.
Visit https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/lang-toi-village for tickets.