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Ballet to depict Hmong story for the first time

You can see "Diaspora: A Mother’s Elegy" at Cowles Performing Arts Center in Minneapolis on Saturday, Aug. 28.
Credit: The Cowles Center

MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time, a ballet production will depict a Hmong storyline, and it is taking the stage Saturday at the Cowles Performing Arts Center in Minneapolis.

It’s called "Diaspora: A Mother’s Elegy." 

Artistic Director Ho-Shia Thao with Hudson Ballet Theater based in New York, was born in the Twin Cities. Thao said it was inspired by his mother’s story about her relationship with his grandmother. The original ballet follows Thao's mother, a refugee, and her journey of love and redemption.  

Thao feels the storyline is universal. "It really is about finding common ground for parents and for children who may not really understand each other or really understand each other’s expectations," Thao said. He said it's about the obstacles that can batter a relationship between a parent and child and the journey back to redefining their love for each other.

Thao said his grandmother passed away about five years ago. The production came out of conversations he had with his mother in 2019. He said he eventually he couldn't stop seeing the story on stage and did something about it.  

Thao wants Hmong people to see these stories in this artform for a variety of reasons. For one, this artform was created for royalty. Now that it is evolving, he wants to be able to see these stories reflected on stage creating a new place for understanding for Hmong people, and a place for empathy from those who aren't.

"Not just to be inspired and hopefully to create a pipeline of dancers or Hmong dancers too for the future, but also because it’s so important to be able to share our struggles or our adversity with a larger audience," Thao said.

There is a message and a narrative a lot of people, especially in Thao's generation, can understand.

"What it’s shown me is there’s so many different ways to be Hmong, and again reaching back, I’m starting to realize more and more that being hyphenated immigrant, Hmong-American, means that we truly have to be the bridge between two generations," he said.

Thao said we are standing on the shoulders of many firsts for the Hmong community.

"How we blend ourselves into that is critical for our survival," Thao said.

The set design, some music and costumes will reflect the Hmong culture with Thao choreographing and dancing for the production.

You can check out "Diaspora: A Mother’s Elegy" Saturday at Cowles Performing Arts Center in Minneapolis. There are two shows, one at 1 p.m. and one at 7 p.m.  

Get tickets here.

Center for Hmong Arts and Talent or CHAT helped bring the story of Thao's mother to share with Minnesotans.

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