Jointly organized by Arabesque Vietnam and performance art theater Saigon Concert, the gig is scheduled for December 16 and 17 at the Municipal Theater, also known as the Saigon Opera House, in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City.

During a briefing for ‘Senzen,’ Tan Loc, the art director of the show, shared his reflections on his past experience as an international student in Japan nearly 30 years ago, his sentiments about his profession, and the challenges he faced during the pandemic.

“After the struggle between life and death, I have gained an appreciation for what I have, cherishing every encounter and every opportunity to pursue my passion,” Loc said.

“A dancer must practice every day to stay in shape.

“Amidst chaos, maintaining calm is crucial to excel in your pursuits.”

Choreographer Tan Loc speaks at a press briefing at the Saigon Opera House in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, December 1, 2023. Photo: Tuoi Tre

These inner reflections served as inspiration for him and his colleagues to create the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen’ in celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan.

The play’s title reveals themes shared by Japanese and Vietnamese cultures, where ‘sen’ symbolizes the lotus flower and ‘zen’ represents meditation.

The piece is likened to a journey of exploring the philosophy of mindfulness, offering each individual the opportunity to observe and understand themselves.

The performance is meticulously curated, from stage design and lighting to the serene fusion of timpani, Japanese drums, and traditional Vietnamese musical instruments.

It involves a modest cast of seven to eight dancers but has required the dedication of a crew of nearly a hundred over the past six months.

Among them are those who tirelessly commute between Vietnam and foreign countries, working both online and offline, such as choreographer Ngoc Anh.

Kensaku Satou of Japan shows his mastery of Taiko drums. Photo: Koshizuka Mitsuki

The ballet will also feature the renowned Japanese drum master Kensaku Satou, who has performed in prestigious events such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics closing ceremony, FIFA World Cup editions, and various international programs.

This will be his debut in Vietnam.

In a video message, the artist expressed his enthusiasm and anticipation for a harmonious performance, blending Arabesque Vietnam dancers with the energetic rhythm of Japanese Taiko drums, for the Vietnamese audience.

A performance for contemporary dance lovers

Providing details on ‘Senzen,’ Tan Loc recalls his beginnings as a Vietnamese student in Japan in 1994, where he received immense support from his Japanese friends, shaping him into the person he is today.

Tan Loc also shares a special connection with dancer Chika Tatsumi, whom he met when she was just seven years old.

Now grown up, Chika has stayed in Vietnam to dance for Arabesque Vietnam.

Dancer Chika Tatsumi performs the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

The choreographer reveals that he and his dancers, each with their unique ties to the play, have faced various challenges, including anticipated financial losses for the two upcoming performance nights.

Despite the difficulties, Tan Loc and his colleagues continue to exert their utmost effort in ‘Senzen,’ envisioning it as a cultural and artistic bridge fostering the emotional connection between the peoples of Vietnam and Japan.

Tan Loc also expects the play to bring harmony and empathy, not only to the artists involved but also to the audience.

While Loc expressed concerns about the selectivity of contemporary dance and the potential deterrent of the meditation theme for younger audiences, the first two premieres of ‘Senzen’ have surprisingly attracted interest from many young individuals in Generation Z and enthusiastic engagement from young TikTokers.

Dancers perform the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

Looking ahead to 2024, Arabesque Vietnam has received orders from Saigon Concert for works for teenagers and children, the two age groups often overlooked in artistic endeavors.

Tan Loc emphasizes that the dance company’s approach will always be distinct.

“We strive to maintain our artistic identity in the eyes of the audience,” the artist stated.

He confides that despite being questioned multiple times about the challenges and losses associated with their artistic pursuits, he persists because he believes in the transformative power of art.

Arabesque Vietnam has contributed to the community by organizing numerous free shows for students in Ho Chi Minh City.

One of those students, inspired by one of his plays, developed a deeper love for his hometown in Vietnam’s central region and dedicated themselves to studying to contribute to the homeland.

Dancer Vu Minh Thu performs the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio