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Meet Khang Bao of Thien An Performing Arts in Westminster

Today we’d like to introduce you to Khang Bao.

Khang, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Thien An Performing Arts is no stranger to the Little Saigon area in Southern California, especially during Tet, or Lunar New Year. However, few have known that we had a chance to perform in front of former First Lady, Presidential Candidate, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Orange County in June 2016.

“Thiên” in Vietnamese means heaven, and “n” means blessings. Our vision is to provide a platform for local youths to learn, perform, protect and prolong the Vietnamese culture through our unique forms of lion dance and traditional drum performances. Not only we help our members connect to the Vietnamese culture, but also teach them the valuable core characteristics such as respect, confidence, and self-discipline along with high encouragement so each member may value the performances as exciting and empowering. In turn, they then can share these “blessings” back to others through our unique cultural performances.

Our organization was formed in 2005 by a few members with a passion to prolong the Vietnamese culture, and with just two lion heads and a drum. Little did we know, our performances through the years received many supports from the community, and in 2013 the group had the ability and budget to expand and created the traditional drumming team. Though it was a big gamble to purchase the first 10 drums, this move proved to be a good gamble as our traditional drum performance elevated our organization further than we have expected. We now have seven lions and 50 drums in our arsenal to continue bringing the beautiful and proud Vietnamese culture and history to others.

At the present, Thien An Performing Arts has a total of 70 members, ranging from high school students to those with full time jobs and families. In addition to these active members, we are happy to receive helps from former members who have contributed financial donations, fixed performance wardrobes, prepared foods for rehearsals, and made drumsticks and stands as well. Moreover, in May, 2016 Thien An Performing Arts was officially approved as a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization to continue our mission in spreading the Vietnamese culture. Our principle office is located in the heart of Little Saigon, Orange County, California. It is where the largest Little Saigon in the United States and first-generation Vietnamese immigrant’s community located; therefore, the large part of our members are second and third generation Vietnamese Americans.

Together with the community, we want to continue providing the platform for our community youths to learn, perform, protect and prolong the Vietnamese culture for future generations.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a not-for-profit organization, we measure our success with opportunity to provide a platform for our community youths to learn, perform, protect and prolong the Vietnamese culture for future generations.

It has been a successful road with occasional speed bumps through the years. Some of the difficulties we have faced are making sure to have enough donations to continue keeping our performance equipments at the highest quality, and finding ways to keep current members together. The more experienced members we have, the higher the quality of performance because younger members have a higher expectation to follow.

Furthermore, struggle or not, in the end of the day we are happy when we see our local youths being empowered with the Vietnamese culture and history in a more practical way than through textbooks.

However, we have not reached the finish line yet, as we still have many more goals to achieve as an organization. Our next bump in the road is to provide our members with a permanent practice site where we all can call our studio to continue achieving our vision. In other words, a platform for community youths to prolong the Vietnamese culture for future generations of Vietnamese descent in the United States.

Thien An Performing Arts – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Thien An Performing Arts specializes in lion dance, traditional drum and dance. Our performances encompass new elements with the change of time and instill traditional core values that can be applied beyond the dance studio. We provide performances for dinner galas, dance galas, corporate events, community events, conventions, upscale and exclusive weddings, private events and much more. What sets our performance, especially traditional drumming, apart from other similar performance groups is that our performance tells a story. A story of war and struggle to keep in touch with our roots despite being born and/or raised in a foreign place. In addition, we proudly are the go-to-performing group for many big events in the Vietnamese Community of Little Saigon, such as the Tet Parade, International Parade (New York, NY), 40th Anniversary Commemoration of the Fall of Saigon on the USS Midway (San Diego), OC’s Gift of History at the Angel Stadium, and Vietnamese Martyr Mass at UCI.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Our proudest moment is when we got to meet and perform for 2016 Presidential Candidate and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her visit to Little Saigon, Westminster in June 2016! Looking back at our journey, “We are a great believer in luck. The harder we work the more luck we have!” – Thomas Jefferson. This is the core principle we believe from day one and continue to instill in our members for many years to come!

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