East Meets West at the Palace Theater

Before his performance on Friday, April 6 at the Palace The-ater, Vietnamese artist Dao Anh Khanh addressed his audience, saying that, at first glance, his birthplace, Hanoi, seems to be the East and Colgate is the West, but from another perspective, Hanoi could be seen as the West and we could be the East. In the end, we are all on the same planet and are more alike than we initially appear.

The Colgate Vietnam Soci-ety, along with the Asian Stud-ies and Theater departments, organized East Meets West: An Unprecedented Form of Modern Arts, inviting renowned surre-alist painter and dancer Dao Anh Khanh to Colgate. Hav-ing originally been a member of Vietnam’s cultural police, monitoring artists, Khanh transformed along with Viet-nam in the 1990s. As his coun-try liberalized, he ceased cre-ating restraints for artists and became an artist himself. Over the past five years, he has per-formed internationally in more than 20 locations, on top of having exhibits in countries including Switzerland, Spain and the United States. Glad to visit the university that his daughter attended, Khanh accepted Colgate’s invitation to perform in Hamilton this year.

For the event, the Palace Theater had decorated cloth banners hanging from the ceiling and the audience sat on the floor after eat-ing Vietnamese cuisine. After a brief introduction, Khanh began his dance, in which five Colgate students also participated. With powerful music, Khanh started off behind a translucent sheet with a hole in its center, creating shadows before emerging through the hole. Both Western and Eastern art, as well as both the innovative and the traditional, inspire Khanh, and his choreography echoed this combination, with the sounds and images of rippling water mixing with the harshness of blasting rock music.

The show included elements like ropes that formed cages and pictures on the back of the stage shifting from nature scenes to people passing by to an image of hands and their motions. During the perfor-mance, Khanh sang in both Vietnamese and English and members of the Colgate Viet-nam Society in the audience had flashlights to shine around the stage and the room.

Once the performance con-cluded, Khanh remained at the Palace to discuss his work with the members of the audience, as well as to elaborate on how he crosses cultural and political lines with his art.

Tom Linzmeier, the own-er of the Two Tigers Gallery where Khanh has work dis-played, said, “Of all the people I’ve met in my life, Anh Khanh is one of the most interesting, outside of any box.”

But at the end of East Meets West, the audience had witnessed Dao’s creativity firsthand. As Dao pushed the boundaries of art and we saw something new, we could also see how it connected to us and how we and the rest of the world are not that differ-ent. We all wish to express ourselves and we all want to create something new. In Dao’s case, he has not only expressed himself and created innovative art, but he is also sharing his new ideas with the world, connecting every place he visits.

Contact Bridget Sheppard at [email protected].