Layers of memory unfolded in “Aux Portes De L’oubli” (The Forgotten Door)

Layers of memory unfolded in “Aux Portes De L’oubli” (The Forgotten Door)

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Words and photos by Nguyễn Đức Tùng for Hanoi Grapevine
Do not copy or re-post without permission from the author and Hanoi Grapevine

The things we keep in memory is the things we can never touch again, no matter how hard we try. We can only miss them and relive them in our minds. But how can we visualize those memories?! That was the question I had in mind before seeing “Aux Portes De L’oubli” – a dance performance by choreographer Sébastien Ly at L’Espace Hanoi. This event is part of the Krossing Over Arts Festival 2019.

Each member of the audience received a questionnaire about the most memorable memory they had with their grandparents. Before the show started, the questionnaires were collected and placed on the stage.

Dancer Lisa Robert (left), Trần Hoàng Yến (middle) và Thomas Demay (right)

The performance subtly began through the sincere and rustic stories of the artists’ families. The lights of the auditorium faded, the words intertwined. Dancer Hoàng Yến told the story of her grandmother who always remembers each of her performance costumes. Then audience had a taste of the meals they had with their grandparents through the memory of dancer Mai Anh. Instead of using music, the artists’ movements followed the flow of voices and emotions.

Choreographer Sébastien Ly (left) and Thomas Demay
Lisa Robert and Mai Anh (right)

The movements were sometimes strong and overwhelming, sometimes gentle and smooth. The dancers read the lines shared by audience in the questionnaires while performing. The choreography created waves of emotions and memories, erasing the border lines between the artists and their audience.

The performance came to a climax when dancer Lisa Robert came out on stage with a burning ball that gave off the smell of incense. The costumes of the dancers became identical. In particular, instead of using the direct voice as before, in this section, Sébastien Ly played the voice record of the first time his grandmother talked to him in Vietnamese. Despite knowing Sébastien did not understand Vietnamese, she still soaked him up in the verses of Truyện Kiều (The Story of Kiều) in a sincere Hue accent.

“Aux Portes De L’oubli” ended in the sacred atmosphere of deep smoke. I left the auditorium, still hearing the voices of memories coming from far away.

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