People's Artist Kim Quy has the type of smile that puts people at ease when they meet her. Her simple approach to life is present in the way she talks and the sparkle in her eyes.
Tran Kim Quy is 60 years old, but she seems much younger. She presses the keys on her mobile phone much faster than other women of her age do and she goes from meeting to meeting in her high heels at the clicking pace of a 25 year old.
The veteran artist is still active as a teacher, a choreographer and serves as chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City Dancing Artists' Association, and deputy chairperson of Vietnam Dancing Artists' Association.
She is typical of dancers who often appear younger than their age. Their dispositions and what they do often reflect the joy that dancing gives them. Dancing it seems is an elixir of youth.
Kim Quy began to learn dancing at a famous school in Hanoi when she was 11. She learnt balance by standing on her toes while holding a wooden rod above her head. This caused numbness and unbearable pain in her toes and calluses on her palms but the little girl had to practice every day.
Despite the pain, she continued learning while many other students quit the class. She was driven to succeed and though she did not cry for pain, she cried when she could not do her exercises. At the end of her early training she said she felt like she could leap in the air with the lightness of a bird.
Kim Quy had a gift for dance and mastered difficult moves with ease. She was even asked to demonstrate at senior students' classes and encouraged them, "I am young but can perform these moves, so you certainly can."
The strict training environment for seven years turned Kim Quy into a woman of strong character and high endurance.
An undated file photo shows a young Kim Quy performing. At 60 she is a respected dance instructor.
When Kim Quy went to continue her dance studies in Russia in 1967, she dedicated herself to learning - she did 29 different subjects from literature, philosophy and history, to music, painting and costumes.
In 1973, she glorified Vietnam when she graduated as a top student of the Moscow Stage and Art University.
Through thick and thin
Kim Quy was born in northern Nam Dinh Province in 1949 and was subjected to the hardships of the wartime as many other people were, but she had a beautiful love to sustain her.
When at school, she was given the nickname "Small girl who learns well" by a young boy, Vu Viet Cuong, who studied at the same school. They knew each other but that was as far as it went. After graduating, the "small girl" left to Russia while Viet Cuong went to the battlefields.
One day Cuong was sitting in a trench and happened to hear Kim Quy speak on the Voice of the Soviet Union radio station. "Our country is fighting bravely, so we only wish to study very well to be worthy of everybody's trust..."
When he heard Quy speak, Cuong felt touched by the finger of destiny and after she returned home he met the "small girl" again and they fell in love. After they got married, People's Artist Viet Cuong became his wife's choreography mentor - which helped her in her later career.
The war ended and the couple had a son, Viet Anh, now a famous musician, and moved into an apartment to weather the harsh economic times that followed Vietnam's victory. The husband usually performed far from home. The wife took care of their son, performed, taught, and participated in social and artistic activities. She worked from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. During power shortages, she used a fan to blow away the mosquitoes and held an oil lamp in the other hand so her son could see the sheet music to practice the piano. The boy was trained in such a way since he was four.
Now, Kim Quy has a stable life. She is still busy working as a manager and teaching children at two dancing classes every day. She laughs: "I am not rich but I am a happy person, with no complaints about my life!"