"Dance is my life," professes young choreographer Cao Duc Toàn from Hanoi, who, together with Swedish and Vietnamese dancers, is creating a piece for NorrlandsOperan this spring.
Brothers Cao Dúc Toàn and Cao
Chí Thành grew up in the megacity of Hanoi together with their
parents and elder sister. One day, Thành happened to catch a
broadcast of Swan Lake on the family's TV set
and was completely enthralled.
"I asked myself how they could stand on their toes like that and how it was possible for them to look so light and beautiful. It was fantastic," he recalls.
Realising his interest, his parents soon contacted a dance school. They thought it would be a good idea if little brother Toàn also took a class. Toàn himself was not so convinced, but agreed to give it a try. In the dance hall, his attitude slowly began to change.
After three years at the school, he had come to love dance. "Now it's my life," he says.
Today, the brothers are both experienced and sought-after dancers. Nothing beats expressing yourself in front of an audience, they say; to be filled by the emotion of the piece - the feeling of total freedom.
"Everything you've experienced in life - your whole soul - is concentrated in the dance," explains Toàn.
The brothers trained at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and have primarily performed at Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Theatre. They have also travelled all over the world in their work with different choreographers. Toàn has visited Sweden three times and has begun to see it as his second home.
Previously, NorrlandsOperan ran a cultural project in Hanoi together with SIDA for five years. With the help of the contacts made during that time, NorrlandsOperan has since produced several works in collaboration with Vietnamese dancers, including Toàn, the most recent being Pontus Lidberg's work entitled Warriors. It was during this project that NorrlandsOperan's Dance Manager, Annelie Gardell, suggested that Toàn create his own work for NorrlandsOperan.
"I was curious as to what he would want to relate through his dance and how it would turn out as a regional partnership," says Gardell. "So I introduced him to dancers Tove Skeidsvoll and Anna Ehnberg from Västerbotten County-based dance company Nomo Daco."
Rehearsals began in Sweden this past autumn. Toàn brought brother Thanh and dancer Vu Van Nguyên from Vietnam along with him and met with Anna and Tove at NorrlandsOperan's Black Box. They were nervous prior to the meeting, he explains.
"I thought: 'What do I do if they don't understand what I mean?'. But it's worked out fine. We understand one another and they learn the steps really quickly," says Toàn.
Life is about a meeting and a struggle between different perspectives, outlooks and inner motivating forces, both good and bad. It is a piece of modern dance art with elements borrowed from traditional Vietnamese folk dance.
"I want to tell stories about life. About things that must be told," Toàn concludes.
Choreography: Cao Dúc Toàn
Performers: Cao Dúc Toàn, Cao Chí Thành, Vu Van Nguyên, Anna Ehnberg, Tove Skeidsvoll
Lighting design: Erik Wiedersheim-Paul
First Performance Thur 29/3
Photo by: Andreas Nilsson