Interview: Trần Ly Ly

“I don’t try to fit into the society’s framework. If you fit in the society, it means that you are not a pioneer.”

Trần Ly Ly, Choreographer of ‘7x’, in conversation with Kameliya Petrova in September 2014 in Hanoi.

© Trinh Xuan HaiInterview with Trần Ly Ly

Whether she peaks into our secret fears, explores the depths of our inner lives, or challenges our perspectives, dance in Vietnam appears different with the works of Trần Ly Ly.

Born into a family of dancers, Trần Ly Ly graduates at early age from the Vietnam Dance College, pursues her studies and career in Australia and France and comes back to Vietnam to build up an impressive repertoire of contemporary dance works. ‘One day’, ‘Living in a Box’, ‘Zen’, ‘7x’ are among the choreographies that brought her the international reputation of one of the most interesting choreographers of contemporary dance in Vietnam.
Trần Ly Ly and her dancers from HCMC Dance College closed the 4th edition of ‘Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance’ with their work ‘7x’. The dance demonstrates the story of an individual growing up during the significant changes in society. Developing inner conflicts accumulate and slowly lead the character to alienation in his own world and time.

You have studied and worked in Australia and Vietnam. How did you happen to go there?

While studying in Vietnam I had the chance to have a few foreign choreographers as professors. Working with them made me realize that outside Vietnam, there is something different. This is why I’ve always thought that it is important to go to study abroad. I was lucky that at that time precisely Australia offered for the first time a number of scholarships to Vietnamese students in a variety of art subjects. It was still very difficult to go, but not impossible. In such way, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Australia and came back to Vietnam. Shortly after that, I participated in the Hue Dance Festival where I met with the French choreographer Regine Chopinot. She was interested to start a collaboration project with Vietnamese dancers and invited me to go to France and work with her.

Did you learn something different abroad?

The main thing that I learnt was to open my mind - open up for a new way of thinking, of doing, of perceiving everything around me. That unveiled a whole new direction in dance, a direction that I did not know so well before. It was at that moment that my line of work became clear to me. From that moment on, I focused on contemporary dance. In the past, I was trained only in classical ballet. When I started doing contemporary, it felt like it was the perfect match, something that fitted automatically with my personality.

What is contemporary dance for you, how do you define it?

Contemporary dance feels free, without barriers and limitations, it is about the present moment, about now. It is human, lively, abstract, emotional, it is very personal for me.

How do you feel about participating in ‘Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance’ in Hanoi?

I am very excited. I feel privileged to meet with so many people from different countries, to be part of this event. Every person has a different personality, something special. I love that! Being part of the Festival comes with a feeling of responsibility for me. I think we have to work even harder, to do better. We’ve been invited to the Festival to be part of the international crowd, but also, we represent Vietnamese dance. This means that we have to put on a very powerful piece, something that we will be proud of.

What do you think about the situation of contemporary dance in Vietnam? What problems do dance professionals face here?

Vietnam needs to have more international dance events of the kind of ‘Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance’. This allows us to connect with foreign choreographers, dancers, curators. There are dancers in Vietnam with excellent technical abilities. In order to develop even further, they need to break free, to have an inspiring atmosphere around them, to open their mind. Events like this stimulate dancers in Vietnam to work harder, to be ready, to have a set goal with a deadline and strive to achieve it. Another issue is that many dancers in Vietnam currently work in classical ballet, contemporary, traditional dance styles - it is too many at once. If you don’t focus your work in one narrow field, you cannot achieve high results. I believe that the audience in Vietnam now is ready to consume good and diverse dance. The public itself is much more open-minded. There is a growing interest, not just in dance, in everything. People want to see, to participate and to experience. This is a new but already a very strong trend in Vietnam.

In some of your past projects, you sparkled a big discussion on contemporary dance in Vietnam. Were “Zen” and “Burning Man`s Figure” well received?

Some people liked it very much, a lot of people didn’t. The problem was that it was new. People don’t think the same way as I do. Although I suffer deeply from audience’s reaction, I try not to stay down for too long. I need to know my goal and concentrate on that. In my work I don’t try to fit into the society’s framework. If you fit in the society, it means that you are not a pioneer. The pioneer is not afraid from the new. I have a new idea and I trust my instincts. I try to do the best I can, to finish a work in the best possible way, to polish it technically to perfection, the rest does not depend on myself. It is important at low moments to have a few people that you can trust. Not only as a personal support, but also colleagues and artists of all fields who have an impartial and competent opinion. When these people come to me and tell me that they liked my work, I trust their judgement.

What is next for you in terms of dance?

I am focused on my new project. This is all I think of right now. It will stage 10 - 12 Vietnamese dancers and hopefully it will be ready around April 2015. The working title is “60 minutes”. This project is a continuation of my previous work ‘Zen’. It explores the story of a life, the karma inside, it is about how one person passes through different stages in life, how the journey itself, and not the destination, matters.

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