Tuấn Lê, is the director of several unique cultural shows in Vietnam, including Lang Toi – My Village, À Ố Làng Phố (The ÀỐ Show) and The Dar.
Tuấn started his career as a solo juggler and learned the art of juggling from his brother when he was young. To Tuấn, juggling was simply a fun thing to do and he never intended for it to be his career.
Growing up in a family of entertainers, Tuấn was exposed to performing arts from a very young age. Not only was his father a successful trumpet player, but his grandparents were also a classical music conductor and a ballerina. Thus, Tuấn did not succumb to the standard societal pressures in Vietnam of becoming a doctor, engineer, or accountant. On the contrary, Tuấn took ballet lessons until he was 5 and very quickly found himself following the footsteps of his family members.
However, according to Tuấn “everything stopped when the war ended” and life became more difficult for his family and his parents like many others were unable to find work and make ends meet. In 1990, Tuấn’s family moved to Germany. Naturally, as Vietnamese immigrants, building a new life from scratch was the priority and not performing. Thus, Tuấn stopped performing for a few years.
Thankfully, he was later introduced to cabaret and variety theatre and joined a school for circus arts in Berlin.
STUDYING CIRCUS ARTS IN GERMANY
Realising he did not want to be a classic juggler, Tuấn aspired to incorporate theatrical elements of music, dance, acrobatics, and of course juggling, in his performance to tell a story. During his time in Berlin, Tuấn was also fortunate enough to meet and learn from classically-trained variety theatre performers. Armed with curiosity and creativity, Tuấn set out to bring his dream to life.
“When the lights come down, my dream will begin, and it will guide the audience into a world that will leave them with positive energy and have an impact on them”, Tuấn said. “We want to create an emotional connection between art and the audience.”
Owing to his hard work and determination, Tuấn found himself as part of the highly-acclaimed Cirque du Soleil troupe and even became a choreographer for their Toruk show.
BECOMING A GLOBALLY-RECOGNISED JUGGLER
In 1996, Tuấn performed in cabaret and variety shows in Berlin and was invited to perform at a festival and won a prize for newcomer juggler! This acted as a catalyst for his juggling career, which saw Tuấn take the stage at theatres across Germany for over 10 years. In 1999, Tuấn was even invited to perform at the popular Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, which launched him to international stardom and onto the radar of notable circus and variety performers worldwide – including Cirque du Soleil.
Tuấn received a call from Cirque du Soleil to perform at the Beacon Theatre in New York – no audition required! He performed with them in New York, Canada and Europe. “I was very lucky”, Tuấn says.
After, Tuấn received a very attractive offer to perform on a cruise ship where he got to see the world from Miami, around the Caribbean down to Mexico and across the Atlantic to Europe. “Life on the cruise ship is seemingly easy, everything is provided for you – food, lodging and laundry – all you have to do is perform!”
RETURNING TO VIETNAM
After a few months, Tuấn craved inspiration, stimulation and creativity and knew he had to leave the cruise. He was also concerned about spending extended periods of time at sea. And so, he was dropped off at a port in Italy where he took a taxi to the airport and flew straight to Vietnam! When he arrived in Vietnam, Tuấn stayed with relatives and his girlfriend at the time and essentially had to start from scratch.
In 2012, Tuấn returned to Vietnam after 22 years. In his first production, he had a really hard time expressing what he wanted to other artists. This wasn’t just a language barrier but also a cultural one in the way that Vietnamese people communicate with each other.
“Even today I still struggle with my written Vietnamese!”
Today, Tuấn is the co-founder and creator of Lune Productions, which Vietnamese cultural shows – Lang Toi – My Village, À Ố Làng Phố (The ÀỐ Show) and Teh Dar. À Ố Làng Phố was even described as a global sensation by The Guardian.
À Ố Làng Phố, roughly translates into “from village to city”, and uses a bamboo set and other apparatuses. The show depicts Vietnam’s transition from a rural past to an urban future and hence the name “bamboo circus”. In addition to being a regular show at both the Saigon and Hanoi Opera House, À Ố Làng Phố also debuted in Australia in 2019 at the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Although the lockdown has stopped all shows in Ho Chi Minh City, Tuấn is hopeful that they can start to perform again at the Saigon Opera House. And despite the pandemic, his cultural show ‘Teh Dar’ is still set to debut in Saudia Arabia in February 2022 after much delay.
Listen to the podcast and read the original article here: https://sevenmillionbikes.com/tuan-le/
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