When Standpoint Theories again takes the stage at Ho Chi Minh City’s Cargo Bar (7 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4) this Jan. 9 to Jan. 11 — and at TBD dates in Danang, Hue and Hanoi later this year — it will be in a much different form than in its first run in November 2013. Back then, it was a dazzling experiment, a heady jam session by some of Saigon’s most creative creatives, testing the bounds of what they could do in a room together. Now — with months of full-time preparation invested and a fuller team assembled — it feels like all that potential is about to translate into something lasting.
Like last rendition, the three pillars of the performance are music, dance and visuals. In the mix are superstar singer Le Cat Trong Ly (54,000 Facebook likes, whoa!), electronic band Space//Panther, members of hip hop group The Love Below, dance punk band James and the Van Der Beeks and live visual collective L.A.V. Masterminded by dancer Emily Navarra, the calibre of these separate elements is as sharp as anything available in Vietnam.
But this time, the collaboration is in the service of something more ambitious than experimentation. Illustrator Trung Hoang is designing the visual backdrop based on six Vietnamese legends, and everyone on stage will be working at creating a visceral environment for the transmission of these myths.
To fully enjoy what will be one of Vietnam’s most singular performances in any form, it helps to have some background. And so Word presents some background for the myths that will be depicted.
Au Co, Mother of the Vietnamese People
Au Co was the kindhearted mountain fairy who married Lac Long Quan, a dragon king from the sea, and gave birth to the forebears of the modern Vietnamese people. Despite their love, Au Co felt the pull of the mountains and Lac Long Quan yearned for the sea, so they split up their 100 children and parted ways. The 50 that Au Co raised in mountainous northern Vietnam became the intelligent, strong leaders who would rule Vietnam for the next 2,000 years.
Son Tinh, The God of Mountains, and Thuy Tinh, The God of Water
This myth explains the practice of tidal irrigation in Vietnamese farming and the destructive floods of monsoon season.
In the story, Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh are equally matched suitors for the hand of a beautiful daughter of the 18th Hong Bang king. Since the king couldn’t decide between them, he decided to give his daughter to the first man to bring over a suitable wedding gift. When Son Tinh arrived just moments before him and spirited the girl away, Thuy Tinh was furious.
Thuy Tinh chased after the happy couple, summoning all the winds and rains he could. But Son Tinh had magic of his own, and raised himself and his new wife above the flooding on a spontaneous mountain, erecting dikes for the farmers caught in between. Eventually Thuy Tinh gave up, but to this day those on the floodplains still suffer his eternal bitterness.
Princess Lieu Hanh, The Hungry Ghost
This story of the mother goddess cult Dao Mau bounces between heaven and earth. Lieu Hanh was a daughter of the Jade Emperor, banished from heaven in front of a righteous man — a man who’d been knocked unconscious during his wife’s pregnancy and somehow found himself in the Heavenly Palace. This righteous man went back to earth, and had a righteous daughter. When that daughter died young and went to heaven, she was granted the title of Princess Lieu Hanh.
Lieu Hanh returned to earth on the second anniversary of her death to see her husband, and promise that they would one day reunite. After that she wandered around playing a flute, switching in appearance between an old woman and a beautiful, young woman, and punishing those who teased her.
Later she met an orphan who she thought was the incarnation of her now long-dead husband. She gave him poetry, he fell in love. They married and he became a great scholar. Eventually it was time for her to return to heaven, and she left her family behind.
Nowadays, people sweep abandoned graves on her death anniversary — the Pure Brightness Festival — out of respect to her, and feed ‘hungry ghosts’ with their offerings.
Standpoint Theories takes the stage at Cargo Bar (7 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, HCMC) from Jan. 9 to 11 — 8.30pm shows on all days, plus a 2.30pm matinee on Sunday, Jan. 11. For more info check their Facebook — facebook.com/events/661664923950428. To purchase tickets, go to ticketbox.vn/event/standpoint-theories-vietnam-edition-featuring-le-cat-trong-ly-18813