Ahhh! Ohhh!

Part acrobatics, part dance, part circus, AO is all entertainment

It’s known as the machine and right now at least, it’s anything but well-oiled. In this particularly difficult sequence, dozens of bamboo baskets must make their way up to the top of a three-level platform, then zigzag down bamboo poles in a human-powered perpetual motion machine moving at dizzying speeds. One break in concentration on the part of just one group member and it all falls apart. During this afternoon rehearsal, tempers flare amongst the group of multi-talented 20-some 20-somethings. Before long, though, the team starts to gel, baskets are moving with clockwork precision and the final performers slide down in a fit of giggles. This is AO.

2

With Vietnamese accents, À Ố is pronounced Ahhh! Ohhh! ― expressions of surprise that this reinvented show has elicited from fans around the world ― a giddy combination of acrobatics, contemporary cirque, dance, martial arts and music. It’s Stomp! meets Cirque du Soleil meets hip-hop dance battle meets Ringling Brothers all set to the live soundtrack of Vietnamese opera, heart- stopping drum beats and haunting solos. There’s no real storyline to the non-stop hour-long show other than the bamboo props that are part of every act ― trays doubling as lily pads or Matrix-style projectiles, coracles as launch pads or a giant pendulum from which performers hurl themselves, and huge bamboo poles that morph from delicate monkey bridges to the walls of a vibrant tenement. It’s frenetic. It’s sweet. It’s chaotic. It’s powerful. For all those disparate reasons, it shouldn’t work. But exactly because of all those disparate reasons, it does.

Created in 2005 in Hanoi, the original show (called “My Village”) went on to tour Europe and Asia, with more than 300 shows in three years. In 2012, the creators brought the show to Ho Chi Minh City, but with a distinctly southern vibe. Where the northern show is softer and more cultural, the southern cousin, just like its new home, is more brash, fun and out to impress.

3

Flipping Out

AO doesn’t quite fit any mold, and that’s probably because its 20 or so performers don’t either. Each with a background in dance, stuntwork, Parkour or circus, they’re more likely to be found actually doing Spiderman moves than watching them in a movie theater somewhere.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never been able to sit still. Even while I was studying Business Admin (my parents wanted me to get an office job), I was doing hip-hop dancing in a crew, then Parkour then stuntwork,” says Tho, 24, the troupe’s star breakdancer and budding choreographer. “AO is all about working together. It just takes one person to mess up a performance. But what we’re trying to achieve here is to dignify everyday [bamboo] objects, for people to remember Vietnam, for them to say ‘ahhh! ohhh!’ just like the name.”

4

“This is so different from a regular circus,” says Ly Xa, 27, who has been involved in circus training since the age of 11. “Those basic moves have been passed down from generation to generation. You could be doing those same moves for three to four years in the circus. With AO, it’s all about the creativity. It’s different every time. It’s like life. It’s no longer a performance,” she says in between practicing contortionist moves balanced on an upturned basket.

Meanwhile, Chinh Phu, 22, uses his Parkour experience to map out exactly where he wants to land as he flips from the swinging bamboo basket boat suspended by ropes from the ceiling of the Saigon Opera House. “I’m the only boy in my family, so my parents are really worried about my health. When I was little and tweaked an ankle or something playing basketball, that was it; my parents hardly let me out of the house. I had to tell them I was going out to study, but in reality, I’d be doing Parkour in parks and on the city streets. I never imagined I’d be part of a contemporary circus show as great as this.”

5

AO has three to four regular performances each week at the Saigon Opera House. Tickets for the electrifying hour-long show start at VND599,000. See www.aoshowsaigon.com for booking details.

Images provided by The AO Show

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

Vietnam War Student Protests

Where did the student movement begin? The US airplanes started bombing North Vietnam in February 1965 after North Vietnamese submarines invaded 2 US ships at the Gulf of Tonkin. President Lyndon B Johnson commanded the revenge attacks blasting armed targets in North Vietnam. There were some criticisms about how the government was battling the self-governing

Read More »

Instagram: different ways to post

Have you been away from Instagram for a while now and have come back to practically a whole new platform but have no idea what’s going on? Do you want to know what all of the various different features are the Instagram has to offer now and how to use them? Instagram is by far

Read More »

A Brief History of Viet Comics

The term “Viet comics,” referring to comics originating from Vietnam, was created in the 1960s by Floral Age Bimonthly magazine; though the origins of illustration in Vietnam can be traced back to a much earlier period. Pre-1900, Vietnamese mạn họa or liên-hoàn họa were woodcut illustrations for storybooks. Those early Vietnamese pictures paved the way

Read More »

All About U Part Wig You Must Read Before You Buy It

What is u part wig? A u-part wig is essentially what it sounds like. It resembles the cross between a partial sew-in and a trim wig. With more exertion required than the previous and less exertion required than the last mentioned, a U-part wig is basically a wig with a little opening at the top

Read More »

How to Care for Your Jewelry

The big day is here, and you have adorned your beautiful dress. All that remains is for you to accessorize your attire to achieve a stunning look. You go to your drawer, open it, and alas! Your prized jewels are faded and rusty looking. You are dumbfounded on what to do. But how could you

Read More »

In Season: A List Of Colorful Plants To Plant in Your Garden

Planting flowers can directly benefit the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen to humans and animals. Thus, improving the air quality. Moreover, there are different types of flowers you can choose from depending on your preferences. You may choose based on its colors or based on its symbolism. The wide variety of plants

Read More »