Bamboo circus brings Vietnamese culture to life

July 29, 2019 | 06:00 pm PT
Australian spectators lapped up Vietnamese bamboo circus À Ố Show, which was performed at the Sydney Opera House for the first time in June.

Below are some of the unique features that make Vietnamese bamboo circus performances captivate millions of audiences. 

The iconic transformation of bamboo

Using props designed solely from bamboo, a common material in daily life in Vietnam, the show leaves audience in thrall thanks to creative and skillful use of bamboo. Slim but tough bamboo stems of all sizes act as crossbars and vertical beams as the performers do dramatic acrobatic moves, juggling, flexing, dangling, balancing on bamboo towers, swinging in the air, and somersaulting.

Bamboo is used even in the stage set-up thanks to the unlimited creativity of the geniuses behind the show, and helps transform the scene from a tranquil riverine village to a magnificent mountain or an urban sprawl with high-rise buildings and bustling traffic. 

The bamboo can support actors.

A scene from the circus play Teh Dar where bamboo props support the acrobats.

Touching storytelling circus 

Unlike traditional circuses, Vietnamese Bamboo Circus brings vivid vignettes of Vietnamese culture through the artistry of a 'storytelling circus'. Overcoming language barriers, each cultural snippet is evoked through breathtaking acrobatics and the skilled and creative use of bamboo.

Delivering the stories through a combination of performers’ body language and lights and sound, the show manages to express emotions that are deeply moving.

An eye-catching performance with bamboo.

An eye-catching performance at "Làng Tôi" (My Village).

Music and convergence of intangible cultural heritages

In Vietnamese Bamboo Circus, music is not shunted to the background; it is one of the vedettes and defines the show’s very character. A number of genres and instruments used in the show have been recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritages, including the gongs of the Central Highlands, the traditional lute in the northern folk music of ca tru, the two-chord fiddle used in southern folk music.

Regional culture representation

Vietnamese Bamboo Circus not only recreates daily life in rural Vietnam but also conveys the quintessence of folk culture through light and sound effects and music. Audiences get a taste of cultural insights and regional traditions, including some that are disappearing from modern life like farmers shepherding ducks under the moonlight in the south, prayer rituals to seek gods' blessings for a good crop in Central Highlands villages or romantic nighttime dates by young souls in northern communities.

Các vở diễn của xiếc tre Việt Nam kể chuyện bằng ngôn ngữ cơ thể.

Vietnamese village scenes at À Ố Show.

Vietnamese Bamboo Circus has been invited to perform in 17 countries and has been seen by over 200,000 people. More than 500 shows have been performed at famous venues like the Sydney Opera House (Australia), Kanagawa Arts Theatre and Yokosuka Arts Theatre (Japan), Le Quartz (France), and Royal Opera House Muscat (Oman).

Lang Toi (My Village) was the first Vietnamese bamboo circus to go on a European tour and has been performed 300 times in nine countries. It is now performed regularly at the Ha Noi Opera House and Viet Nam Tuong Theater.

À Ố Show is a bamboo circus show performed at the Saigon Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City. It has been globetrotting more than any other Vietnamese show since 2015, with more than 200 shows in 50 cities in 11 countries.

Teh Dar is the only show that honors highland culture. Besides being performed at the Sai Gon Opera House and Hoi An Lune Center for the Performing Arts, it has been on a tour of Europe since 2018, performing at 40 venues so far.

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