Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Saigon 1975 Revisited in Dance

    Danny NguyenCollege of Alameda instructor Danny Nguyen, and the COA Dance Department, will be premiering “The Boat without Border” at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. on Friday, June 19, 2015.
    Nguyen has been teaching at Peralta for 15 years and has helped choreograph this and other pieces with his classes, including “Hill and Rhythm,” which explored a dance routine that highlighted the events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Now, the Alameda performers will tackle subject matter that is close to home for Professor Nguyen, who grew up during the Fall of Saigon.
    When asked about what students have learned from taking his class over the years, he recounted comments about his patience and his acceptance with students of all sizes and races. “That’s the best thing about what I’m teaching,” he said. “I told my students, ‘Without you guys I wouldn’t be here, so you come first.’” 
    In 1982, when he was 18 years old, Nguyen had to leave on a boat without his family and escape Vietnam. His small 8-meter boat was picked up by a German oil tanker that later took him to Indonesia. Eight months later he came to Hawaii, and saw a preview to the 1980 film “Fame.” After seeing the commercial he was inspired to try out dancing for fun. 
    He came to Oakland after three months in Hawaii, and he did so because he knew of the Asian population and the community outreach that had been there. After getting help through the Vietnamese community, he began studying at the College of Alameda. His first instructors were David Blood, who taught him ballet, Yvonne Daniel who showed him choreography, and Sue Valentine who taught him jazz dance.
    Even though the former Vietnam capital of Saigon has fallen, and is now called Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen is in his career and helping students succeed, and still travels to Vietnam twice a year for charity with the Women’s Convent overseas. 
    “The village I visit last summer, it was the third largest village in Vietnam, it has over 10 million people, and when I go deeper in the actual area, I don’t see any clinics or hospitals helping people,” he said. Nguyen continued to speak of the medical conditions he saw, including malaria and staff infections, which went untreated for the poor at the government-run health facility and had to wait longer than people who had the money to pay.
    Performers in Nguyen's "The Boat Without Borders."Nguyen has sent medical supplies back home, and has held scholarships for the students in four different provinces in Vietnam. He gives $4,000 of his own money and regularly sends it to these four provinces. Because of social norms, his work is strictly educational and he is also there to give medical outreach. “In my country there is no such thing as dance, especially male dancers,” he said. He wants nurses and doctors there to be provided with equipment like blood testing machines and heart monitors. He also helped build a large water purifier on a previous visit.
    When the COA Dance Department goes to perform “The Boat without Border,” it will also be performing with their teacher and choreographer. Nguyen will be performing in its most challenging act where it recounts his time in prison. Dancers will be portraying Communists and will be throwing him around the stage.
    The conclusion of the performance will be a trapeze-like event where the U.S. flag and the Vietnamese flag will hang on the arms of a student, while suspended in the air, almost like a bird and showing a single unit solution. There will be a conclusion that shows where the community is today and its solution through unity. The boat used in the performance was created by Gina Terrioli.
    “First they have to learn to forgive and forget, so they don’t blame whose fault is this war,” Nguyen said. “So hopefully we’ll see that it’s past 40 years, let’s get along together and make Vietnam become the best country for our assurance later on.”

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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