Yeah, we can dance

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Local adaptation of reality dancing contest wins viewers with stories of courage and passion


  Contestants Tu Duy (L) and Huynh Men give a passionate performance in the Vietnamese version of So You Think You Can Dance. Photo from www.soyouthinkyoucandance.vn

Hoa Duc Cong's spirit was willing, but his flesh body was weak, doctors said.

So he decided to quit while he was ahead.

Cong from Hanoi had won the awe and admiration of millions of viewers as well as judges and fellow contestants as he gyrated his way to the semi-final round of the first edition of Thu Thach Cung Buoc Nhay, adapted from the "So You Think You Can Dance" reality contest.

He had been one of the most famous names in the contest since the national auditions.

When he danced, it was almost impossible to accept that the 21-year-old dancer was undergoing regular dialysis after suffering a serious kidney failure. In fact, during his run to the semifinals, as others practiced, Cong had to be hospitalized three times.

It was not the first time that Cong had defied the odds stacked against him.

 Last year, he became the first Vietnamese popper to compete in the global final round of the R16 Break-dance competition after finishing as a runner-up in South East Asia.

He could not pull it off this time. His doctors said firmly that pressures of this contest would take a toll that Cong's body could not afford to pay.

In a special gesture at the semi-final held on October 6, Cong was allowed a farewell performance by the organizers, and the reaction of the judges and the audience showed that he had been able to strike a powerful chord in their hearts.

Despite the disappointment of having to quit at such a crucial stage, Cong said that dancing has been the "best magic" in his life, giving him a reason, in addition to his beloved family, to "trust and live."

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It appears that dancing and the reality contest has also given many others a lifeline.

For Tran Quoc Hung and Tran Thi Thuong Hoai, brother and sister, from Nghe An Province, dancing has been therapeutic.

Hoai in particular had been suffering from depression since she was young because their father left them. The siblings did not get to the final founds, but they said they will continue to pursue the passion that has revived 17-year-old Hoai.

Le Kim Phung, who won a spot in top 20, said that the contest has changed her mother's mind.

"She hates my passion for dancing; however, when she sees me practicing hard for the contest, she brings me meals every day. That's enough."

Many other contestants have shared Phung's experience. They said their "true passion" was forbidden by their families and that the contest was a chance for them to bare their hearts and challenge themselves.

"I am trying to prove to my parents that I can make it;" "I dance to earn respect, since I think this profession has not been appreciated;" and "I dance to challenge myself" these reasons have been repeated time and again by many.

Making an impression

The first live performance of the Vietnamese version of "So You Think You Can Dance" on October 13 impressed audiences with the top 20 showing the hard work and creativity they had put in.

Tristant Le, an overseas Vietnamese student from the United States, said that the Vietnamese dancers in the show had not let him down.

"I have not watched the show in the US, but the Vietnamese one really amazes me. Although its popularity traditionally relies on touching the viewers' hearts with special contestants, it is still better than the other ones which are exploiting scandals. The dancers as well as the judges are appealing," Le said.

Pham Tuan, reporter with The gioi dien anh (Movie World) magazine, told Vietweek that he was very surprised by the great improvement that the finalists showed.

"They have had a really short time to practice, but they were able to perform well, not just their forte, but also the judges' requests. The contemporary dancer Thuy Hang, 30, blew me away with her new popping-style, and hip-hop dancer Kim Phung did a nice switch with sophisticated contemporary dance movements."

The show's finale will take place on December 9 and the winner will take home VND400 million (some US$19,200) in cash and given opportunities to perform and train with professionals. The top four finalists will win sponsorships for a year's training.

But whoever wins, it appears that the contest itself has been a victor.

Tuan said that many members of the audience have favorably compared the contest with the local adaptation of US dance hit "Dancing With The Stars" "” a reality show featuring celebrities dancing in pair with professional dancers.

""˜Dancing with the Stars' gets attention for having celebs, like many other shows. I prefer the one which highlights the efforts of normal people."

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