Insects chirp, leaves rustle, a flute sounds low in the predawn light. Seven figures take the stage — slowly bending and stretching then pairing up, gaining speed, awakening to the new day.
In “The Mist,” choreographer Nguyen Tan Loc draws on the languages of ballet and contemporary dance to capture the ancient, agrarian rhythms of life in rural Vietnam.
Performances, which mark the U.S. premiere of this critically acclaimed troupe, are presented in conjunction with Center Stage, a touring program initiated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The fruits of their labors
Divided into seven sections, “The Mist” embodies both the cultural traditions and rapid evolution of modern Vietnam. Each piece sets a distinctive mood, telling a different story and highlighting a particular moment in the agricultural cycle.
“On the Field,” which opens the evening, depicts dawn as a kind of sacred rite, an intricate ceremony of daily communion with the natural world. “Fragrance from Pagoda” suggests the geometry of the planting, while “Four Seasons” personifies the sometimes violent transitions from spring and summer to fall and winter.
In “Night” and “Silk,” attentions shift from the work of the fields to the rituals and relationships of the village. “Bumper Harvest” mixes exertion and anticipation before giving way to “Rice,” the triumphant finale, in which exhausted farmers celebrate the fruits of their labors.
“It was consistently obvious … that we were in the presence of a masterpiece,” wrote Bradley Winterton for The Saigon Times. “I wanted this show to go on forever…
“It evoked the very roots of drama itself, while remaining intensely Vietnamese,” Winterton added. “Nguyen Tan Loc is clearly simultaneously a visionary and a stage artist of genius.”
Nguyen Tan Loc
A 2002 graduate of Tokyo’s Fujisato Ballet School, Tan Loc has emerged, over the last decade, as a major force in contemporary Vietnamese dance. He began his career with the Hó Chí Minh City puppet theater and since has worked with many of the city’s leading institutions, from the 5B Drama Theater to the Hó Chí Minh City Symphony and Orchestra Theater.
Tan Loc founded Arabesque — the city’s first private, neo-classical and contemporary dance company — in 2008, drawing enthusiastic audiences for “The Story of the Shoes,” “Simplicity,” “Early Fog” and other shows. “The Mist” was first created in 2011, when the company developed a 20-minute version for the Daegu Modern Dance Festival in South Korea. Encouraged by the strong reception, Loc later expanded the piece to a full, evening-length show.
In 2013, Tan Loc and Arabesque partnered with Saigon Concert Production to present Ho Chi Minh City’s first International Dance Festival. He also currently serves as choreographer for ÀỐ Show, which has been described as Vietnam’s answer to Cirque du Soleil.
Tickets and sponsors
Arabesque presents “The Mist” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24 and 25. Tickets are $36, or $32 seniors, $28 for Washington University faculty and staff and $20 for students and children.
Tickets are available at the Edison Box Office. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd.
Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors.