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The Blackbox space was established in 2016 by Fanglao. Before that, we rented a small room to perform the dance, and after some time we had more members interested and wanted to join in the performance.

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Crossroads of traditional and contemporary culture in Laos

Fanglao Dance Company

FANGLAO (listening Laos)

FANGLAO (listening Laos) is a Vientiane-based dance company founded in 2013 by the dancers Noutnapha SOYDALA (President) and Ounla PHAOUDOM (director) to develop artistic and choreographic practices in Laos. 

FANGLAO is the first collective experimenting, creating, and transmitting dance at the crossroads of traditional and contemporary culture in Laos. At the heart of its activities are the organization of courses, workshops, and training, as well as showcasing and exchanging dance practices by organizing cultural events, festivals, projects, and tours in Laos and abroad. Several other groups of young dancers regularly attend the company's workshops in Vientiane to train and participate in cultural projects organized by FANGLAO. Since 2015, the company has rented a "Black Box" space in Vientiane to organize regular training, workshops, performances, and artist residencies.

FANGLAO artists had worked with many international choreographers during the “Artists Residency” at Vientiane for 1 to 3 weeks from Asia and Europe as

  • Olé Khamchanla, Compagnie KHAM from France

  • Emeline N’Guyen, Compagnie Les Os Posés from France

  • Ismaera Takeo Ishii from Japan

  • Hannah Lord, Musician from Australia

  • Jennifer and Gregorie, Compagnie Corps In Situ from Luxembourg

  • Arco Renz, Kobalt Works company from Belgium


Interview with Noutnapha Soydala

It was impressive that people from various fields gathered and worked without distinguishing the boundaries between genres. When I saw the Fanglao Black Box and the Lao Youth Festival in Vientiane, Laos, I was even more surprised that these two roots were in the same community. From my perspective, it is also a realistic direction found in many ways in Laos's overall situation of culture and art. It was an experience to reflect on the situation in Korea to me through your activities dealing with popular culture and contemporary art at the same level, from contemporary dance to K-pop and B-boying. How did Panglao start?

We were dancing in the same studio, but in different teams, Ounla was a Bboy dancer, and I was a Pop dancer. Then one day, a French dancing teacher came to do the Hip-hop Contemporary workshop. we both attended the training, and we were selected to be part of a contemporary dance performance called Fanglao, which was directed by Ole Khamchanla. There were five dancers from different dancing styles and backgrounds; I was amazed by how contemporary dance blends multiple dancing styles and lets the dancers express their emotions through movements. 

Besides, the Fanglao performance allowed me to perform a dancing tour in France, and it was my first time getting on an airplane. I can say that it was the first time for me being away from home. I learned the way people work in the dancing company there, such as teaching elderly people, people with disabilities, and people in the prison and more. Plus, I attended workshops, learned from diverse cultures, and saw the value of being a dancer. I thought it would benefit more people if we had such a thing in Laos. After that event, we co-founded the company.

The desire to organize a group or a private organization run by an artist - whatever we call it - not as a personal activity - and How you develop and share the idea in the early stages? 

I started by being an artist; I wanted to have my own piece of work. So I began by designing the performance and asked to perform in the events, such as the Fang Mae Khong, for NGO, School events, Embassy events… After we had the company, we established the Fanglao Blackbox space, where we can organize the show by many artists. Artists shared their experiences. Currently, we collaborated with the international dancing festival Fang Mae Khong, in which artists from many countries meet and learn about each other. It helps in expanding the connection.

I believe there’re moments and chances to rediscover the idea of the body's movement in many ways. Was there an opportunity to expand your experience and knowledge of the body's movement as an essential practice of contemporary art?

The body movement I have created is derived from my experience in learning, sensing, and interacting. I recalled my memories from the past and my anticipation for the future.

By what necessity was the black box space started, and with whose help was it completed?

The Blackbox space was established in 2016 by Fanglao. Before that, we rented a small room to perform the dance, and after some time, we had more members interested and wanted to join in the performance. In 2018, with support from the dancer's parents, we temporarily rented their land and built our own Fanglao space. We used our private budgets and opened for donations to build Fanglao Blackbox, which is spacious for more audiences and convenient for rehearsal. This building has rooms provided to domestic and international artists.

Since the 2010s, I understand that you have experienced various co-production and workshops, attending various festivals in Europe and other regions. I know that you have learned traditional dance for a long time since you were young. In this respect, it may be called “the process of unlearning.” If you could call it all “the process of learning,” what is the most important value you have gained from numerous international exchanges?

Yes, sometimes I wonder how I have come this far. It could be my passion for dancing or what exactly it is.  Learning and sharing experiences with many other artists for me is valuable, as it gives me practical lessons to improve my every performance. This is an endless development for dancing performance improvement and understanding of life.

If you continue your life as an organizer and artist, there will be moments when you want to focus more on your artistic creativity at some point. How are you finding a balance between these two paths?

It will not be a concern for me as long as I have good time and task management, and teamwork. Every time I set up the event, I keep in mind that it is for artists and also me. Everyone around me sees and senses. That is also the same for artists' creativity.

I don't know if you've been active for 10 years or longer. Looking back at this point, is there anything you were missing or regretting from your last activity? What achievements do you want to make in the next 10 years?

If I could go back in time, I wouldn't be regretful in anything at all because I believe that things have cause and effect, and I appreciate everything that comes into my life;

For the next 10 years, what I want to achieve is to work in this career as long as I can and have a studio and performing space that is close to my house, which is surrounded by nature. 

You've done many performances yourself/team and watched other people's performances. Please tell me if you have the most memorable moment or still have memories of reflecting on it by influencing yourself.

 "AKALIKA7"  by Olé Khamchanla Company KHAM France, in 2015, I was there as an observer. There were seven dancers in this performance. I was fascinated by the meaning of this performance, and it communicated the Darkside of humankind and acceptance. The performance is unique, powerful, graceful, and strong. And I can't explain them all, but I have learned that I should look at the world in reality. 


Noutnapha SOYDALA(Choreographer, Dancer)

Noutnapha SOYDAL Photo by Jessica Farine

Noutnapha SOYDALA (Choreographer, Dancer): She was born in Vientiane. At age six, she started to learn Lao traditional dances in school. She kept practicing until high school, where she won several first prizes. In 2006, Nout discovered hip-hop dance. The same year, she participated in a contemporary-hip hop dance workshop directed by the French-Laotian choreographer Olé Khamchanla. It was a revelation for her.

That is when Nout developed her passion for contemporary dance as a synonym of openness and artistic and cultural mix. Since then, she has worked with Olé on several projects, including choreographic creations and cultural actions in Laos and France.

In 2013, Nout created her own company FANGLAO with Ounla Phaoudom. In collaboration with several local and international partners, we have organized many workshops, performances, and cultural events in different provinces of Laos. In parallel to those cultural actions, She learns dance technics: Hip-hop, contemporary, jazz, and ballet. She had the opportunity to participate in several workshops with Jean Guillaume Weis, Jill Crovisier, Corp in situ (Luxembourg), Christina Chan (Singapore), Arco Renz (Belgium), and Isabelle Schad (German). In 2015, Nout worked and performed with Kham's company on their new creation FangLao, and started a tour abroad in 2016.

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