Choreographer Dam Van Huynh draws upon the words of writers, poets, activists, and his experience as a child refugee from the Vietnam war to create a choreographic work about overcoming.
Van Huynh Company present, Re:birth, a dance work which retraces choreographer Dam Van Huynh’s personal experience of rediscovery to explore universal themes of displacement. The work stirs emotions through a collage of visual impressions, sensations, long forgotten stories, memories, and dreams. As it moves from a state of disorientation into a state of consciousness, Re:birth presents a hopeful transformation for displaced people to find community and be reborn.
Re:birth is a heightened sensory experience that intends to invoke feelings experienced by displaced people and to give the audience space to reflect on broader societal issues. The movement responds to a field of light by Patricia Roldán Polo and a sound environment composition by Martyna Poznanska to create a psychedelic and hypnotising environment. Van Huynh’s long term collaborator British Afro-Caribbean vocalist, movement artist and composer Elaine Mitchener MBE performs alongside the dancers in the work. ‘I am interested in the impact of movement on the voice and how it changes and manipulates the sound. I was very struck by the choreographic language Dam was exploring – the rhythm and sound of movement’ says Mitchener about their collaboration.
Re:birth exemplifies a constant theme within Van Huynh’s work which deals with challenging stereotypes and empowering the voices of those who are not able to speak for themselves.
‘As a queer Vietnamese artist, I want to oppose Asian stereotypes of being quiet and internal and find ways through my work to empower others and encourage them to speak up.’ Dam Van Huynh
Re:birth, although not overtly about immigration, looks to reframe the concept of a refugee as a brutalised victim asking us instead to acknowledge the richness of experience and find a universal humanity. Behind this dance work is the continuing partnership of Van Huynh Company and Community Centre for Refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (VLC) – known as VLC Centre and, since its inception in 1985, a vital meeting point for refugees from Southeast Asia. This partnership led to the relaunch in 2016 of the community centre under the name of Centre 151, an independent charity based in the heart of Hackney, promoting culture, arts and community inclusion.
Re:birth is supported using public funding by Arts Council England with further support from University of Plymouth and Centre 151. The work will be presented by 3:e Våningen as part of the Göteborg International Art Biennale for Contemporary Art’s program “GIBCA Extended 2023” and at The Place, London on 14 Nov with further touring in 2024.