Notes from a dinner conversation with Long and Lan Mar 9, 2007

by Sara E

Lane Czaplinski's notes from a dinner conversation with Le Vu Long and Luu Thi Thu Lan at Ray’s Boathouse on March 6, 2007: Long’s wife Lan lived and studied dance in the Ukraine for 10 years. After the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Lan was stranded in Kiev 80km away for two months while other foreigners from richer nations were evacuated. When she became pregnant approximately 6 years ago, Long feared that his child would be born with a disability, specifically deafness. This was the inspiration for his learning about and contacting the deaf and hard of hearing community. Two of the dancers in Together Higher are deaf from exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Despite being a famous artist in Vietnam, Long is not allowed by the government to form a dance company, and instead, must work under the auspices of the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet. Also, as artists they are not allowed to keep passports in their possession. The topic of HIV/ AIDS came into focus for the artists two years ago while they conducted workshops in a camp or  “prison ” for former sex workers and drug addicts outside of Hanoi. A participant mentioned that he would not be alive the following week to continue the workshop, underscoring the grim fact that 40 percent of the camp’s residents were afflicted with HIV/AIDS and received no treatment. Over 7,000 people watched the company perform in the camp. When asked about the influence of Western choreography on his work, Long responded that while he is aware of the work of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Trisha Brown, Stephen Petronio and others, their approaches do not factor into his work. Instead, he has found endless potential in the untrained but willing bodies of the dancers in his company, and therefore, has little need to look to the West for ideas. While he didn’t initially intend to continue working with deaf and hard of hearing dancers, Long claims that he cannot stop choreographing for them and they cannot stop dancing for him, hence the name of the company, Together Higher. Lane Czaplinski    Also of interest, an article about the company was written in The New York Times on Tuesday    Posted by Sara