Hue Festival starts with a bang in Vietnam

HUE, Vietnam (AFP) — Vietnam kicked off its premier arts festival Tuesday evening with an international spectacle of folkloric dance and fireworks outside the ancient Citadel of the former royal capital Hue.

Artists and dance troops from 23 nations have come to the central city on the Perfume River that prides itself on being Vietnam’s cultural capital for the nine-day event that has been held here every two years since 2000.

The moated Citadel, modelled on Beijing’s Forbidden City and the former seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors, saw heavy fighting during the Vietnam war’s 1968 Tet Offensive, leaving many of its palaces, temples and gardens in ruins.

But Tuesday the arched roofs of its South Gate — restored as part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed complex — served as a backdrop to a televised extravaganza that featured more benign explosions in the night sky.

“I tried to make a very poetic and elegant fireworks,” said Hue Festival pyrotechnics designer Pierre-Alain Hubert, who choreographed Vietnamese women travelling in cyclos and waving lotus flowers alight with flames.

Traditional dancers and singers from the host nation performed alongside groups from former colonial power France, the main foreign sponsor of the festival, as well as nations including China, Japan, South Korea and Belgium.

Vietnamese royalty was taboo and regarded as feudal after Vietnam’s communist victory and national reunification in 1975, but the country has now embraced its ancient history as part of its heritage and as a tourist drawcard.

“The most important part of the festival is that it closes the gap between the royal heritage and the people,” said Huynh Thi Anh Van, a heritage expert with the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre.

“In the past, only high-ranking mandarins and royal family members were allowed inside the Citadel,” she said. “The rituals were very secret. At the Hue Festival the people can explore and witness what royal life was like.”

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j3QreN5iN4EK5e7GhB8ZK8NiSFAQ

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