Some of you may remember that during our last visit we got to see a talent performance and competition called "TDT's Got Talent" -- based on similar events on USA TV and popular all across the globe. There is a national level competition that builds on local campus and other group competitions. There are now corporate sponsors (very limited and different level of PR than from USA) so there are REAL cash prizes for winners at all levels.
We continue to find that culture is really connected here in Vietnam to everyday life -- just about everyone can and does sing, many people play musical instruments, dancing is very popular, poetry is beloved and often recited, storytelling is a real art, magic is very popular. And tastes range from ancient and traditional poetry and songs and dances to Korean Pop, including all the many ethnic groups as well as art and culture from the 1940s-70s during the victorious struggle for independence and unification.
So...out of scores of initial competitors, the event final last night (which lasted several hours in the transformed sports arena) saw 14 different groups of students perform a wide-ranging and varied types of dances, songs, magic, shadow puppets and a combo of gymnastics-weightlifting feats. In addition to the performers a huge crew of students were responsible for the event logistics -- everything from PR, ticket sales, staging with sophisticated lighting and sound, seating set-up. There was a panel of judges including one of our Labor Relations professors who is also a well-known professional magician along with other cultural leaders. At every level of competition student performers receive real feedback on how to improve, so last night we saw real improvements in several of the performances. We were especially moved by a group performance of traditional songs from Hue and also by a group performance of songs from the American War.
One of the highlights of the event was a great video produced by the students about their "team building" work during the many months they all participated in the TDT's Got Talent project. By team building they meant that they collectively selected a "solidarity" project so that they could "give back" to the community. This particular year the students selected a community kitchen that serves very inexpensive food in a working class ward or neighborhood. The video showed the students working under the direction of the older women who run the kitchen preparing food, serving food and then cleaning-up at the end of the day. We find that this is a very common practice of young people, students and adults who are working together (or just socializing) always finding projects that "serve the people" to add to their collective routines.
Vietnam is a special place connecting everyday life, culture and collectivity and with a very different use of competition and "team building". Vietnam has so much to teach us all!
PS For videos and photos, check out Leanna's Facebook page and google TDT's Got Talent or check out Youtube for TDT's Got Talent!