Keeping Xuan Pha dancing alive

Folk artist Bui Van Hung has devoted his whole life to preserving Xuan Pha dancing. He has the most knowledge of the folk art in Xuan Truong commune, Tho Xuan, Thanh Hoa where the dance originated.
Hung has loved Xuan Pha dancing since he was a little boy watching Xuan Pha dancing during village festivals and has never missed a performance.

Given his passion for the dance, in 1990 when the state adopted polices to restore and develop the national culture, Hung was one of the first 20 young men in Xuan Truong who were selected by old Xuan Pha dancers to carry on the tradition.

Hung was a hardworking student. He always took detailed notes of what he learned from the old dancers, unlike other learners who only listened. He also made additional notes and comparisons to his writings whenever there was a performance in the village or in other localities outside the province.

In this way, Hung has finally created a complete document on Xuan Pha dancing in which he describes the songs and movements not only in words but also using illustrative drawings. This enables the least literate learners to understand and follow the movements when reading his book.


Folk artist Bui Van Hung from Xuan Truong commune, Tho Xuan district, devotes his whole life
to preserving Xuan Pha folk dances.

Hung sketches movements in Xuan Pha dances to use in his classes. 

Folk artist Hung, and Hao, a carpenter in Xuan Truong, make masks for the dances.  

Hung teaches the folk dances to school children in Xuan Pha.

The special costumes of Luc Hon Nhung dancers.

Hung has the most knowledge of the folk dances in Xuan Truong.

With Ngo Quoc dancers before their performance in Lam Kinh festival 2018 .

Hung and the local dance troupe rehearse before performing on stage in Lam Kinh festival 2018.

When Hung’s teachers passed away one by one, Hung’s book became the only document on Xuan Pha dancing. He has now become the village’s teacher and director of Xuan Pha dancing.

Hung is the chairman of the only Xuan Pha dancing club in Xuan Truong. He is the organizer of Xuan Pha dance performances in the village’s festivals as well as in other events in and outside Thanh Hoa.

Hung believes in the strong existence and growth of Xuan Pha dancing because, he said, “my friends are always happy to perform Xuan Pha dances no matter how hard their lives might be.”

Xuan Pha villagers love folk dancing because it reflects their daily life and work and praises their values such as respect for labor, love for family, gratitude to ancestors, and a sense of community solidarity.

In the Hoa Lang dance, dancers use fans and perform such movements as throwing flowers which symbolizes joy and a positive spirit. The dance also includes boat rowing movements to describe the daily activities of people who make a living on the river.

The Luc Hong Nhung dance features the daily life of a family of four generations in order to teach the moral lesson of family love and unity, and gratitude and respect for older generations.

Xuan Pha villagers were happy when the folk dance was recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2016. But Hung felt a bigger responsibility on his shoulders because the recognition meant greater efforts must be made to develop the folk art so that it could finally become a UNESCO-recognized heritage.

Teaching how to hold the lance in the Ngo Quoc dance. 

  Teaching how to use bamboo 
clapsticks in the Luc Hon Nhung dance.

Hung teaches movements of the character of the old grandmother in the Luc Hon Nhung dance. 

The Champa dance includes difficult movements.

Hung is the organizer of Xuan Pha dance performances in the village’s festivals. 

He believes in the strong existence and growth of Xuan Pha dancing

 Hung is the village’s teacher and director of Xuan Pha dancing.

Xuan Truong children seem to have a talent for dancing under the tutelage of folk artist Bui Van Hung. 

Right now, his concern is that there are no successors to replace the only drummer in Xuan Pha dancing, Do Dinh Ta, who recently turned 82. The drummer plays an important role in Xuan Pha dancing. He must know all the dances and have the talent and passion to inspire the dancers.

Seeing Hung’s enthusiasm as well as strictness toward his young students in Xuan Pha dancing classes, we understand why the thousand-year-old folk art has endured till now.  There have always been devoted artists like Hung throughout its history of development. 
Story: Thao Vy - Photos: Tran Cong Dat, Tran Thanh Giang

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