ĐẸP is a Vietnamese word that translates as ‘beautiful’, and is also the starting point for Dam Van Huynh’s dance work that explores the nature of the human condition, taking inspiration from his Southeast Asian heritage.
One by one, the six dancers walk to the front of the stage and stare intently at a house-lit audience. By societal convention, their nakedness makes them vulnerable, bare and exposed in a room full of voyeurs; but as they stand in defiant silence it becomes apparent that they are in fact looking at us – illuminated and unprotected by the overhead lights. Perhaps we are the vulnerable; perhaps it is the other way around?
As with any dance piece it is vital to consider the context through which the creator has taken inspiration. In this case, choreographer Dam Van Huynh considers the notions of death and rebirth, and their prevalence in his native Vietnamese culture. Forced to flee at the age of five to America as war refugees, he comments on his own rebirth within another country. Furthermore, in Vietnam death is a form of rebirth and commences a series of rituals which facilitate the deceased’s transition into another, higher state of being. ĐẸP takes this cyclical journey and delves into the crux of human nature – striving to find the core of what personhood is and the primary emotions which bind us.
The dancers are accompanied with sounds curated by Martyna Poznańska, many of which incorporate field recordings made in Vietnam. The human voices within, particularly the recording of the traditional folk song which began the performance, brought a sense of authenticity; and with it a sadness for the reality of the suffering explored throughout.
Movement throughout the piece is carefully designed to portray a storyline of human and emotion and more abstract concepts – often the choreography is impressionistic and seeks to encapsulate the idea of a ‘moving image’ which Dam Van Huynh set out the achieve. A raw and visceral production that transcends the need for verbal communication, ĐẸP looks behind closed doors and stands defiantly in its appreciation of human fragility.