Scooters, the Saigon Opera House, and Doing The Twist in Vietnam

May 28, 2012

The ever adventurous
Trey McIntyre Project

is currently on a four-week goodwill tour of Asia, as part of Dance Motion USA, a partnership between the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Dancer Ashley Werhun has invited
Dance Magazine along for the ride, and shares her experiences dancing in—and exploring—Vietnam, below. If you missed her first post about TMP’s time in the Philippines, read it here.



Scooped up from the airport and into my hotel bed I fell, dreaming about my day off to rest and explore Hanoi, Vietnam. There had been few moments to catch my breath on this tour until then. The next morning, Annali Rose, Chanel DaSilva, and I ventured into Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Getting out of the cab, we were almost run over by hundreds of scooters—something that remained a constant for the rest of my time in Vietnam. Cars are a luxury here but everyone has a scooter. People carry everything on them: gigantic baskets of fruit and flowers, multiple children, and even building supplies. And the heat! The locals didn’t seem fazed by it, but we were melting.



After wandering streets lined with tiny shops full of silk garments and ornate wooden serving dishes, we found a place to rest and rehydrate with my new favorite drink in Southeast Asia: a coconut with a straw in it. It goes so well with the delectable Pho that we ate for many of our meals—including breakfast!

Following a day of rest, we began connecting with some of Vietnam’s talented artists. We observed and learned from the Theater for Vietnam Music, Dance and Song. The women’s dance used bells and the boys’ dance had daring, high-flying tricks. As I watched the Vietnamese dancers’ piece I thought to myself, “This one presentation is my introduction to Vietnamese dance. This dance has a huge impact in shaping my idea of what Vietnamese dance is!” And then it hit me: Just as this was my first impression of Vietnamese dance, TMP may be their first and only experience with Western dance. That was both a heavy and honoring responsibility.


Chanel DaSilva performing for Vietnamese dancers



One thing stands out in my Vietnam experience: We were always treated as the guests of honor. For instance, during outreach at the SOS Children’s Village in Hanoi, the children lined up to welcome us with smiles and roses in their hands. The Bong Sen Theater gave us a full performance in their extravagant, sparkling costumes and graciously presented Trey with a painting of a lotus flower a gift. I feel so grateful to have been welcomed in such a loving way and to have learned so much from each interaction.


The children of SOS Children’s Village presented TMP with roses (and sported Dance Motion USA t-shirts).



Our friends at the U.S. Consulate said that the city was buzzing about our performance in Ho Chi Minh City. It was spectacular! Modern billboards of TMP photos hung outside the beautiful Saigon Opera House alongside classical Roman columns and statues. The opera house had been oversold and it was open seating, so it was madness as people flooded through to claim a seat.

For the final bows, the Bong Sen Theatre joined us on stage. The TMP dancers who were not in the last ballet were dressed in layers of brightly colored traditional Vietnamese attire. (The Bong Sen dancers graciously helped Chanel get dressed because the female garments are very complicated and ornate.) Vietnamese music started blasting and the crowd realized that we were going to dance together. A thunderous wave of applause hit my heart and once again, my eyes started to well up. It was a glorious last show in Vietnam.

On the last day in Ho Chi Minh City, we had the opportunity to visit the Disability Resource and Development Center. A former dancer has developed this center as a way for the people of Vietnam with disabilities to gain confidence and support one another.


Lauren Edson performs at the Disability Resource and Development Center



At the Life Is Beautiful Clubhouse, we watched them perform a dance they had prepared especially for us. We taught them Hand Jive and then we all did the Twist together. With everyone doing the Twist, smiling, and laughing, dance united us all.


Doing the Twist at the Life Is Beautiful Clubhouse



Now…off to China! (Am I really going to be performing in China? I have always imagined China as such a far off, mysterious land. I often have to pinch myself on this tour).