Tradition resurrected

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Traditional dances dreamt up by various communities in and around Hanoi hundreds of years ago will be performed to celebrate the capital's 1,000th birthday this October.

Nine ancient Thang Long style dances will be performed by 600 dancers, artists and monks at a festival titled Thang Long mo hoi tim lai dau xua (Thang Long: looking back to the past).

The dances fall into three major categories: those traditionally performed at celebratory festivals, those with spiritual/religious implication and those associated with the old imperial court.

Nguyen Van Bich, president of Hanoi Association of Dance Artists, said the performances are the result of a project that has been restoring and developing Thang Long-Hanoi dances since 2005.

Understanding exactly what the dances meant and knowing how they were performed hundreds of years ago was not an easy task.

"It is very difficult to say exactly how we've "˜restored' the dances in comparison with the original ones," Bich said.

Bich went on to say the dances had been restored based on historical records and on consultations with village elders and local senior artists.

Chu Thuy Quynh, the show's director and noted People's Artist, said this was the first project of its kind aiming to preserve traditional dances in Vietnam.

"We need a professional preservation center like the one we have for Nha nhac cung dinh Hue (Hue royal court music)."

"We need to preserve such dances properly, which means giving more chances for dancers to train young ones."

Quynh said the dance program would tell the story of Hanoi, from its first days as the new capital of Thang Long 1,000 years ago, to its development into the modern metropolis of today.

The show will be divided into three acts, the first of which, Lua thieng Ha Noi mo hoi ngan nam (The holy fire of Hanoi: A 1,000- year festival), will tell the history of early Hanoi. The second, Nhung dau xua trinh dien cac dieu mua co (Ancient vestiges: the performance of ancient dances) focuses on the artistry behind the dances and the history of the dance arts in and around Hanoi. The last segment, Mung Thang Long chien thang (Celebrating the Thang Long victory) details the history of modern Hanoi and the defeat of imperial powers who sought to subdue and enslave the great city.

'RESTORED' DANCES

Mua chay co, a flag dance from Trieu Khuc Village, Thanh Tri District

Mua trong bong, a drum dance as known as Con di danh bong, or "I'll beat the drum," a cross-dressing dance from Trieu Khuc Village

Mua trong co, an ancient drum dance from Phu Xuyen Village, in the former Ha Tay Province, now part of Hanoi

Mua bai bong, a flower dance from Phu Nhieu Village

Mua le chu, literally chay chu or "dance of words" from Chu Xa Village, Gia Lam District

Mua giao long, a dragon-killing dance from Le Mat Village, Long Bien

Mua bai bong, a flower dance from Phu Nhieu village Mua giai oan Thich Ket, a dance from Phu Dong Village's that translates roughly to the Exoneration Dance of Monk Thich Ket. It is unclear who Monk Thich Ket was, possibly the dance's originator, but this religious dance is performed by monks seeking to absolve all the souls of those who were unjustly accused or punished in their lives.

Mua luc cung, a Nguyen Dynasty Buddhist Dance.

Mua nghiem quan, an army dance from Hoai Duc Village, is the oldest dance that will be performed, having originated in 572AD. The dance is traditionally performed every five years by young men in the village before they are sent off the army.

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