How did you get the dancing bug?
When I was 14 my best friend had enrolled in a dancing course. And whenever he was taking classes, which were generally most of the day on Saturdays, I was short a best friend. He convinced me to join his classes and with very little interest in dance itself, I decided to join mainly because I did not wish to be bored by myself on Saturdays. Fortunately, my very first dance teacher was so encouraging and inspiring, I took to dance immediately. I have been dancing ever since.
How did you end up in London? Why choose to live and work here?
I ended up in London because in 2003, I had just left New York City and decided I wanted to dance abroad. I was travelling through London on my way to France for an audition when I came upon the Richard Alston Dance Company. I made an audition and Richard offered me a job. I accepted and moved to London.
I have chosen to live and work in London because I feel good here. London has become home. I enjoy the vibrant energy of the city and the diversity. London reminds me of New York. They both are rich with culture, but I find London a bit more human.
Describe your dance/choreographic style in five words.
Physically dynamic and purity in movement.
What’s the one thing we need to know about your piece, Sudden Change of Event?
The one thing you need to know about my new work Sudden Change of Event is that it is an exciting piece full of energy and the movement vocabulary shall display a feast for the eyes.
You were a finalist in last year’s Place Prize, what did that do for your career?
Being a finalist in The Place Prize has tremendously helped me in my choreographic career. With the exposure from The Place Prize, there was more of a sense of association with me and choreography which had not been there before. I had been primarily a dancer in established companies so most people had always equated me as Dam Van Huynh the dancer. After The Place Prize, I had been contacted by several different organizations for choreographic commissions such as the British Museum and collaboration with Nitin Sawhney and the British Film Institute.
What was it like to win the audience prize every night, but not win the competition?
In all honesty, I entered The Place Prize competition with very little expectations. I was hoping at the very best, I would get into the finals so my work may be seen. Winning was the last thought on my mind. I hadn’t even considered winning one audience choice. I was more concerned with the idea that everyone would hate my piece. For me, winning the audience choice every night for ten nights was like winning the grand prize.
Where’s your favourite London dance floor? (could be a stage, a studio, a club, your bedroom…)
My favourite dance floor in London is studio 8 of The Place. It was my very first studio when I entered the UK and I spent about two years there. It is not lavish or Royal Opera House standard, but I feel at ease and comfortable there.
What’s your all-time favourite dance piece, and why? (you can have more than one – I know it’s hard to choose!)
Perhaps narrowing down one of my all time favourite dance works is a bit of a challenge. However, one of the works that sits at the top of my list would be, Piano Phase by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. I enjoy the complexity within the simplicity of the work. For me, the piece is edgy and makes me hold my breath until it is over. The complex time and subtlety of the weight shift all have to be in perfect harmony in order for the dancers to be in sync. The challenge of such harmony is what reads the most to me for this work. As a dancer, I feel the challenge of taking on such a work would be thrilling – as I love a good challenge – and as a choreographer, I have great admiration for the imagination of the work.
What’s your secret talent?
My secret talent is that I am able to independently wiggle and spread my baby toe without the involvement of any other toes. Ok, Ok, this may sound simple, but in fact it is very difficult to move the baby toe separately of the rest. I recommend you try it. It is quite the challenge.
What do your feet look like?
During a heavy rehearsal period, my feet generally look as if they have been beaten and battered.
The rest of the time, my feet look like they are recovering from being beaten and battered.
What will you do on your next day off?
On my next day off, I will take a trip to the south of France and lie on the beach and eat as much ice cream as my stomach can handle.