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Choreographed Community: Vietnamese Cultural Outreach at the Orange County Library

Thuyen May dancers performing on stage at Chickasaw Branch

Orange County Library System sets the stage for informational access here in Central Florida. Libraries bring people together under the umbrella of learning and sharing through books, education, DIY workshops, cultural programs and more. Last year at Chickasaw Branch, Thuyen May Productions had the honor of presenting a bilingual, hourlong dance tour featuring vibrant costumes and choreographies highlighting the northern (Miền Bắc), central (Miền Trung), and southern (Miền Nam) cultural regions of Vietnam.

Saxophone duo M2 performing on stage at Chickasaw Branch

Dances alternated with saxophone music that evoked the ambience of Vietnamese music cafes. Performed by the local saxophone duo M2, the repertoire focused on sharing popular Vietnamese tunes. Throughout the program, library technology allowed Thuyen May to showcase educational videos about Vietnamese cultures and customs as well as accented the wide stage area with colorful lights and high-quality sound.

Thuyen May’s interactive folk-dance workshop was the highlight of the program. At the end of the dance tour, attendees of all ages gathered onstage to learn a dance for the song Ngồi Tựa Mạn Thuyền (“Sitting by the Boatside”). Once the music began, all the smiling faces and passionate expressions encapsulated what cultural programs and libraries do best: creating spaces for community and unity through learning. With the help of the wonderful staff at Chickasaw Branch, Thuyen May Productions could share Asian and Asian American Vietnamese narratives with everyone in attendance. The library’s stage served as an access point to the cultural narratives of Vietnam.

Thuyen May dancers performing with parasols on stage at Chickasaw Branch

Thuyen May Productions is a non-profit group dedicated to sharing Vietnamese culture in Central Florida and beyond. The members of Thuyen May include a diversity of backgrounds and heritages, with member ages spanning from teens to seniors. Among their members are Asian American residents who rely on informational access and local programs or activities to learn about their culture and heritage. The collections of Asian and Asian American books and media provided by Orange County Libraries make it possible for the interested – younger Asian American generations included – to jump start or expand their entryways into Asian culture. Mai-Huong Nguyen, the founder of Thuyen May Productions, stresses the importance of cultural education: that “Cultural learning and sharing open doors to understanding, acceptance and appreciation.” And it is the library system that provides community groups like Thuyen May Productions a means to set the stage for the future generations to come.

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Memorial Day Closing

Orange County Library System will be closed Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. The library system will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, May 28. View a complete list of holiday closures >