Company Ea Sola uses dance to share experiences of the Vietnam War with younger generations.
This article was first published in The Daily Bruin. http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2008/jan/24/peace-movements/
By Jenae Cohn for the Bruin
WAR MAY SEEM like a distant, harsh occurrence, only applicable to those who live where bombs are dropped, but French-Vietnamese choreographer Ea Sola aims to bring the realities of war to the youth who never fully experienced it on their own home front.
“I don’t know the young people, what they think about, because I belong to the parents and the grandparents who have fought about the peace strongly,” said Sola, who fled from the war in Vietnam as a teenager in 1974. “There is no war in Vietnam, and I hope never again, but there is war around the world. ... I see my society, and nobody reacts because the war is far.”
Sola’s dance company, Company Ea Sola, aims to bring the realities of war closer to the younger generations in the production, “Drought and Rain Vol. 2” coming to UCLA Live at Royce Hall this weekend. With the company comprised of young dancers from the Vietnam National Opera Ballet of Hanoi, Sola’s choreography speaks directly to those who only experienced the Vietnam War through the stories of their grandparents, parents and the media.
As a sequel to a 1995 production of the same name, Sola aims to elaborate upon the themes of the Vietnam War broached in her first production.
“(In Vol. 2,) I was wondering about the future. I really feel afraid for the future. I have continued my life ... with people who really think war is banal and people can kill each other; they don’t react,” she said.
With portraits of people who died during the Vietnam War lined up in front of the stage throughout the course of the production, Sola aims to make war a personal question for everyone, reflecting upon how war does not have to be an obligation if the masses can react with nonviolence.
“Nonviolence is a way to disobey, not serve,” said Sola. “It’s to take consciousness, to say ‘no,’ to react in the movements, in the silence. On stage, there is no gun.”
Inspired by the nonviolent philosophy of French philosopher Étienne de La Boétie, Sola further aims to show that war continues because the youth engage in it without questioning what war is and how war affects others.
With the Vietnam War discussed specifically in the production, Sola faced her greatest challenge in working intensively with her dancers to ensure that they could all connect and understand the emotions they were to portray.
“During the performance, (the dancers) are relating with their subject; they’re really with the audience and also feel the audience,” Sola said. “The honesty between us and the subject, and the honesty between us together who are working and taking care of each other ... you have to feel the other, you have to be together for peace.”
Understanding the Vietnam War can be difficult even for members of the Vietnamese culture.
“When I was growing up ... I would watch the news, the Vietnamese channel, and they’d have veterans talking about the war and things like that, but I never really understood it and I never really connected to (the war),” said Hang Do, a fourth-year international development studies student and the codirector of UCLA’s Vietnamese Language and Culture Club.
But despite the sensitive nature of the subject, second-year communications studies student and member of the Vietnamese Language and Culture Club Thoa Nguyen feels that understanding Vietnamese culture is important.
“Usually, if I see someone, they’ll ask if I am Chinese, Japanese, Korean ... every other race, except Vietnamese,” said Nguyen. “We definitely don’t get that much representation in American culture.”
Neither Do nor Nguyen discusses the Vietnam War with family members or peers very often.
“(My parents and grandparents) definitely avoid talking about it if possible,” said Nguyen. “I interviewed (my grandpa) about his experience. ... He definitely stayed away from expressing his feelings, and I can imagine it was pretty hard.”
Company Ea Sola’s dance interpretation of the war, though, should provide a new way to tell stories of the Vietnam War.
“I’m really excited for the dance group that’s coming because it gives us all a chance to see what it’s like, to see what their (war) experiences are,” said Do. “Because it’s expressed through dance, it gives us a totally different medium to express themselves.”
While the resilience of the Vietnamese in times of war and hardship may be the focus of the production, Sola insists that it is a global understanding of other people and a commitment to peace that are most important to her.
“It’s so beautiful what other people can mix in our lives,” Sola said. “The knowledge with the song of others, with the literature of others, and to have friends of others.”