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Faced with a rise in drugs and prostitution, Vietnam bans .... dancing?
“Nobody in my crew uses drugs,” said Nguyen Viet Thanh, the 35-year-old elder statesman of Hanoi’s breakdancing scene. Thanh’s “crew” placed sixth at last year’s breakdancing Battle of the Year in Asia. “If they use drugs, they can’t dance. They dance from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., five hours a day.”
Thanh rents a gym in a southern neighborhood of Hanoi that several local breakdancing crews use as a headquarters. Every evening, the gym fills up with teenagers in Kevin Garnett basketball jerseys, many with their hair teased into tight curls to mimic African-American styles.
Thanh said the ban on dancing in karaoke bars wouldn’t make much difference to him. He and his friends go to karaoke bars to sing. When they want to dance, they organize hip-hop shows — which these days, he said, is easy to do.
Meanwhile, some of Vietnam’s young people think the karaoke dancing ban is a good idea, such as 21-year-old singer Nguyen Thanh Huyen, who performs at several clubs around Hanoi.
“If I were an ordinary young person I might be against the decree, but I’m a singer and I have directly witnessed the things that go on in small bars and karaoke clubs,” Huyen said. “I think it should be banned.”
There is widespread sympathy in Vietnam for the idea that the government should help people restrain their worst instincts. Ta Thuy Minh, 25, who hosts the pop celebrity talk show “Van Tay” (“Fingerprint”) on Vietnamese TV, disagreed with the ban on dancing, but she said the decree’s other measures, like maintaining a midnight closing time for bars, karaoke clubs and discos, made sense.
“In Vietnam it’s different from Western countries. Most young people live with their parents,” Minh said. “People shut down the disco before midnight for young people because that’s time to go home.”
“I agree with the decree,” said the manager of one of Bui Thi Xuan street’s “family” karaoke clubs, where activities are more tame. (He declined to give his name when commenting on government policy, even though he agreed with it.) “If you allow dancing in karaoke rooms, it will create unhealthy situations, like young people using drugs.”
In a room upstairs, a group of workers from the computer and IT firm FPT were having a birthday party. Manager Pham Anh Tuan, 35, said the decree was a good idea.
“The decree should be very specific in distinguishing people from offices who go to karaoke to sing and relieve stress from people who go to karaoke just to dance,” Tuan said.
Then he volunteered perhaps the most concise explanation for the tendency of people in a Confucian society like Vietnam’s to support this sort of decree.
“If the government releases this decree,” Tuan said, “people should obey it.”
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