Spotlight: Orlando’s Hon Viet Group Keeps Vietnamese Culture Alive Through Dance
It’s been 40 years since the Fall of Saigon and all week we’re looking at Orlando’s Vietnamese population. Age is just a number for a group of Orlando Vietnamese retirees who dance for their country. Six members, average age 60 with no professional dance training, make up the group Hon Viet.
Hon Viet means soul of Vietnam, and soul is certainly what you get when you watch this group perform. Member Susie Tran says she can’t fight for her country but she feels compelled to do something. So she sings and dances her heart out.
Tran says Hon Viet is the only group in Orlando that does what they do. “Nobody else can be this group! I mean this age and doing this; I mean we have our differences, we argue, we fight, we do all of that but we try to love each other, we still love each other,” said Tran.
Dancing, singing, and telling the stories of their people gives them deep pride, a sense of identity. But another motivation for the group is a sense of responsibility to pass their culture and traditions on to younger Vietnamese Americans.
The dancers of Hon Viet spend their own money on costumes, props and travel expenses. They’ve been together a little over a year. Tran says these days, they’re getting booked more often as more people hear about them and see them perform.
20-year-old Kim Tran is exactly the type of person they’re trying to reach. At an event at the Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center last month she wore an áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese dress. It’s an elegant long- sleeved tunic adorned with bright yellow flowers. Tran says staying true to her roots is important to her.
“Because I was born here, so I don’t really get the firsthand experience of living in Vietnam and learning the culture and learning the language but from festivals like this and holidays I get to really experience it firsthand for myself,” said Tran.
Tran says she feels in tune with her culture. It’s what ties her to her parents’ and grandparents’ generation. And precisely what keeps Hon Viet dancing to the tune of its homeland.
Hon Viet performing live at Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center: