Celebrated for its versatility, bamboo plays a huge role in daily Vietnamese life, used in everything from construction to home decor.
But a unique show from Hanoi takes this fast-growing, woody plant to a whole other level.
Dubbed the world’s first bamboo circus, Lang Toi – or My Village – is one of the most fascinating performing arts experiences in Vietnam. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, it’s the longest-running show in the country.
“With Lang Toi and with our concept, we want people to understand the value of what we have in our tradition,” says Tuan Le, director of Lang Toi.
The 42-year-old has worked with Cirque de Soleil and was a professional juggler when he was living in Europe as a teen. Lang Toi is his first Vietnam-based theater project.
The one-hour show tells the cultural story of traditional Vietnam villages through movement, music and, naturally, bamboo.
As a symbol of strength and longevity, bamboo is used generously throughout the show – from the raft on which performers dance on to the musical instruments they play.
“It’s something unique about the people and the concept,” says Le.
“How we use bamboo not just as a stage decoration but to invent new circus techniques with that material. And after over 10 years now, we finally could say we found an identity for Vietnam circus – with the subjects as bamboo.”
Forget technologically advanced stage designs and special effects. Everything in Lang Toi was built by hand.
Instead of verbal dialogue, performers communicate with their audience through live folk music and movement, eliminating language barriers.
“I use acrobats and their elements and techniques to write the story that doesn’t need to be translated,” says Le.
A universal art form
This universality has contributed to the success of the show.
Lang Toi has been performed more than 1,000 times – including more than 300 shows outside of Vietnam, in Europe and other Asia destinations.
“Modern performances like this one are becoming more and more popular in recent years,” says Dinh Thi Loan, a Lang Toi performer. “It attracts many young people who all want to be involved.”
In its early days, the Lang Toi team consisted of just 20 musicians and performers. It’s since swelled to become a full-fledged production company with more than 200 staff members.
Lune Production, the show’s producer, puts on four separate styles of performances in three Vietnam locations multiple nights per week – Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An – all of which highlight the uniqueness of the country’s culture.
“I think we’ll continue to develop more projects here in the country – and who knows – maybe we’ll expand to Southeast Asia. That is the wish that we see as our vision,” says Le.
In Hanoi Lang Toi is performed at both the 108-year-old Hanoi Opera House (01 Trang Tien St., Hoan Kiem Dist.) as well as Hanoi Vietnam Tuong Theater (51A Duong Thanh St., Hoan Kiem Dist.).
Tickets can be ordered through Lune Production’s official website.
CNN’s Jon Jensen contributed to this feature.
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