Students of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese backgrounds came together Saturday at the Michigan League Ballroom to produce Dem Viet Nam, the annual Vietnamese cultural show and concert. The event was organized by the Vietnamese Students Association and combined aspects of traditional Vietnamese culture and Vietnamese American experience.
“The purpose of ‘Dem Viet Nam’ is to show the University a side of Vietnam that is positive, as Vietnam is usually only associated with the war,” said VSA President Christiana Huynh.
The show featured a few cultural dances representative of the different facets of Vietnamese culture. Mua Den Cay, a candle dance, displayed simple yet elegant moves with candles and scarves with the lights dimmed. The moves also demonstrated their unique skills, as they performed feats such as placing the candles on their heads and twirling around.
Other dances included Mua Quat, a type of fan dance, a dance influenced by northern Vietnamese traditions, and a native folk dance from Vietnamese villages.
Rackham student Huy Tran sang “Buoc Chan”-meaning “Footsteps”-about the appreciation and gratefulness the Vietnamese people feel towards the countries they immigrated to after they were displaced by the war. These countries included the United States, France, Norway, and Australia.
Tran’s song marked the transition from the traditional Vietnamese culture to a culture that combines aspect of Vietnamese and American music. A modern Vietnamese dance showed the influence of mini-Viet Hollywood and Vietnamese celebrities.
Engineering sophomore and show participant Kevin Nguyen said, “People think Vietnam is a backwards country and that everyone wears rice hats. Our culture is so much more than that.”
Rackham student Jared Cahners added, “Being of non-Vietnamese heritage, I’ve learned so much about their culture and the Vietnamese American experience.” He participated in the show by singing a Vietnamese love song. Cahners is studying Southeast Asian Studies and has learned to speak and understand the Vietnamese language.
The modern performance section included two hip-hop numbers and a running skit that poked fun at the clash between Vietnamese parents and their American children.
“I think that the non-Vietnamese audience should understand that our children have adapted to this country but they still haven’t forgotten their background,” said Thuhuong Tran, whose children participated in the show. “They are keeping the traditions alive,” added her husband Duy Tran.
“We wanted to come for the Vietnamese culture experience and we were most touched by the sense of togetherness within the Vietnamese family,” said Rackham student Mary Kate Kopec. “There has been a lot of positive support and encouragement for the students, and it has been a very fun and light-hearted experience,” she added.
The evening ended with a concert by California-based Vietnamese singer Da Nhat Yen, who has a large following among Vietnamese Americans. Yen performed a set of traditional and modern songs in the Vietnamese language.
“This is my first time performing in the University setting and I was a little nervous about it. But the audience was so warm and friendly, I quickly got over my fears,” Yen said.
She added, “I’m so happy to see so many non-Vietnamese people in the audience. I couldn’t be prouder of my culture and language, and I love sharing that.”