Vietnamese Black Tai dancers to perform at Centenary

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary's Meadows Museum of Art will hold a special convocation featuring Vietnamese Black Tai dancers from Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, March 7, at 11 a.m. in Kilpatrick Auditorium. A second dance performance will take place the following morning at 10 a.m. in Kilpatrick Auditorium. A Black Tai Gala will also be held during the evening of March 8 at 6 p.m. in the Meadows Museum of Art.

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Illustration from the Despujols collection entitled "Black Tai Dancers at Mai-Son (with scarves)"

This convocation illustrates a unique link to the Meadows Museum of Art's extensive Jean Despujols art collection that includes 365 paintings and drawings of Indochinese peoples by the French Academic artist. Plans for this event developed after the staff of the Meadows Museum contacted the Black Tai community in Iowa in fall 2012 to request background information regarding individuals of Black Tai origin portrayed in the Despujols collection.

The resulting convocation will showcase traditional ethnic dances for the Centenary and Shreveport-Bossier communities.

"The women are excited to travel to Shreveport to discuss our history and perform the dances that our mothers and grandmothers performed when they lived in Vietnam," said Som Baccam, the dance troupe leader. "We've practiced every weekend for some months. All of us hope the people of Centenary and Shreveport enjoy our performance."

In addition to dance performances, Baccam will speak at both events about her group's turbulent history and the importance of preserving the Black Tai culture.

Fleeing Vietnam after the departure of the French colonial government, the Black Tai ethnic group took refuge in neighboring Laos in 1954 and later in Thailand in 1975. Governor Robert Ray of Iowa invited the Black Tai to set up a permanent settlement in Des Moines, Iowa, upon receiving a letter requesting refuge.

The performances at Kilpatrick Auditorium are free and open to the public, and tickets to the Gala are $60 per person. For more information, contact the Meadows museum of Art at 318.869.5169.