“We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.” ~ Grace Lee Boggs
The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is a rare Asian American woman led professional touring company with programs for educational settings, community organizations and mainstage venues. The Company’s worldwide touring is represented by Red Shell Management led by Edward Schoelwer. Prior to 2021, the Company leads the roster of renowned artist manager Joanne Rile who has since retired.
Nai-Ni Chen is an artist recognized by the community as a tradition bearer who learned authentic movement and dance skills from masters who followed the Kuomingtang (or The Nationalist/Democratic) government to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war and avoided the Cultural Revolution that destroyed the tradition. In this role, Nai-Ni Chen is a frequent guest in Chinese language media on dance, and she is a sought after judge/expert during community cultural dance conventions. She was an early member of the Cloud Gate Dance Company, the foremost contemporary dance company in Asia. Coming to the US in the 1980’s, Nai-Ni worked with Bertram Ross, Mary Anthony, Doris Rudko and received a Master degree from NYU. She is an unique artist whose work spans two cultures.
Throughout the company’s history, Nai-Ni Chen has collaborated with a wide range of artists from different disciplines and cultures. Her musical collaborators range from New Music, jazz to classical, they include: Joan La Barbara, The Chinese Music Ensemble of NY, Jason Kao Hwang, Huang Ruo, Kenji Bunch, Tan Dun, Glen Velez and most recently, the Ahn Trio. Award winning designers and visual artists such as Myung Hee Cho, Jay Moorthy, AC Hickox and costume designer Karen Young have also worked with Nai-Ni Chen. These collaborations provided her the opportunity to develop innovative works that can carry the timeless essence of the tradition, crossing cultural boundaries without compromising the integrity of the art.
Prominent Institutions, including the Lincoln Center Institute, the Joyce Theater, Dancing in the Streets, NJ Ballet, Ballet Met, Dancing Wheels, and Baraka Sele at NJPAC all have commissioned notable works. Our most recent tour, A Quest for Freedom, developed with the Ahn Trio, premiered at the Philadelphia NextMove Festival. The Company is currently in residence at New Jersey City University, the A Harry Moore for students with disabilities and in Elizabeth School #26, a school of mostly immigrant children.
About Nai-Ni Chen
Nai-Ni Chen, the founder, choreographer and Artistic Director of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, comes from a rich dance tradition. She was a renowned traditional dancer in Taiwan where she was born and served on several ambassadorial culture missions to nineteen countries around the world including an one month engagement on Broadway in the Minskoff Theatre. An early member of the Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan, she graduated from the Chinese Cultural University and came to America to seek her own voice in the world of contemporary dance. Since the inception of her Company in 1988, Ms. Chen has created a rich and wide-ranging repertory, collaborating with a diverse group of musicians, artists, and cultural bearers. Touring over 25 years around the United State, her company has been presented in major performing art centers and communities covering the continental United States.
In addition to domestic touring, her company has also performed at international festivals in Mexico, Canada, BVI, Guatemala, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, South Korea and China with support from Fund for Mutual Understanding, The President’s Committee for the Arts, Arts International and the State Department of the United States. Ms. Chen has received multiple Choreographer’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and from New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her work has also been commissioned by the Joyce Theater Foundation, the Lincoln Center Institute, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Dancing in the Streets, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and New Jersey Performing Art Center.
Besides creating dances for her own Company, she has choreographed the opera Turandot for several productions and was commissioned to create work for New Jersey Ballet, Dancing Wheels Company and Ballet Met in Ohio. She has taught master classes at colleges and universities throughout the United States and at dance festivals in Russia, Poland, Germany, Taiwan, China, and Mongolia. She was invited to set her work on students in professional schools and colleges including the Ailey School in New York and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio and Long Island University in New York. Her other teaching credit also include Mary Anthony Dance Studio, Peridance, Rutgers University, New York University and New Jersey City University. She has been a principal affiliate artist of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center since its inception. On television, Ms. Chen is an often-featured artist on PBS/NJN’s “State of the Arts.” With her dedication to dance education for children K-12, she received Distinguish Artist to the Field Award from Association of Teaching Artists and Lincoln Center Education in 2020.
Candace was originally from Brampton, Ontario, started her professional training at Bold Dance Company under the direction of Emilio and Stephanie Macri. She continued her training at The Ailey School as a Certificate Student. She has performed works by many choreographers including Amy Hall, Tracy Inman, Carlos Dos Santos and Norbert De La Cruz III. In 2013 Ms. Jarvis performed in Alvin Ailey’s Revelations Cast of 50 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and took part in Robert Battle’s New Directions Choreographers Lab at The Ailey School. Ms. Jarvis was a former member of Awaken Dance Theater under the direction of Rebekka Nodhturft. In 2015 she earned her Certificate of Honors from The Ailey School Certificate Program.
Evan Matthew Stewart
Evan Matthew Stewart - Dancer- was originally from Buffalo, NY. Evan began his dance training at Miss Barbara’s School of Dance and at the age of ten continued to advance his training at David deMarie Dance Studio in styles varying from contemporary to tap and ballet to jazz. Evan also attended the Royal Academy of Ballet (Buffalo, NY) under the direction of Beth Waddell and while in college, attended the Joffrey School of Ballet New York City summer intensive to further his skills in ballet. In 2016, Evan graduated from the University of Buffalo with his BFA in dance and minor in counseling. During his time at the University at Buffalo, Evan was a member of the dance program’s pre-professional company Zodiaque under the direction of Thomas Ralabate and Tressa Gorman-Crehan.
Originally from Mumbai, India, Jainil Mehta began his dance journey at the age of five,
performing in his living room. Before moving to Los Angeles, he trained at Shiamak Davar International in Mumbai, India for thirteen years. Jainil graduated Summa Cum Laude and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance with a Discovery Scholars Distinction, and has acquired a variety of skills including motion picture cinematography. He has performed works by esteemed choreographers: William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Jodie Gates, Barak Marshall, Alejandro Cerrudo, Dwight Rhoden and Matthew Neenan. Jainil’s inner movement quality, expressions and love for storytelling come from his strong Indian roots and culture. Jainil has choreographed for Big Wild’s music video “6’s to 9’s” and Falguni Pathak’s “Jode Rahejo Raaj.”
“Build your dreams as they are not just fantasies; DREAM TO DANCE” ~
Greta Campo began her dance training in her native Milan at the Carcano Theater, where she was first introduced to Martha Graham’s work. At age 19, she began the Professional Training Program at the Martha Graham School in NYC and, after a couple of months, she joined Graham II, performing in ensemble and solo roles. She performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company in their 2012 New York Season and has also been traveling nationally and internationally with them. She completed the Teacher Training Program at the School. Greta has performed choreographies by Pascal Rioult, Larry Keigwin and has worked with renowned choreographers, such as Eryc Taylor and Nejla Yatkin. She was a member of Alison Cook Beatty Dance and received the 2016 Rising Star Award from Fini Dance Festival.
Sonny Shiu Dancer, is a Chinese-American who was born in Visalia, California but moved to Miami, Florida when he was 3. He started dancing at the age of 20 when he took interest in breakdancing, then at the age of 21 he was accepted into New World School of the Arts for dance where he graduated with his BFA in dance. Sonny has furthered his ballet training at intensives such as Charlotte Ballet, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, and CuBallet where he received scholarships as well as at Complexions Ballet, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and recently the Paul Taylor school. Since he graduated, he has danced with Peter London Global Dance Company and Dance Now! Miami. Sonny has also worked with Dale Andree on the 2018 National Water Dance.
The Ahn Trio
Born in Seoul, Korea, and educated at Juilliard, the members of the Ahn Trio—sisters Maria, Lucia and Angella—are redefining the art and architecture of chamber music, breathing new life into the standard piano trio literature with commissioned works from visionary composers like Pat Metheny, Kenji Bunch, Maurice Jarre, Nikolai Kapustin and Michael Nyman. The trio’s latest CD, Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac, made No.8 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. and the special edition release is now available on the RCA Red Seal label.
The trio thrives on dissolving the barriers between art forms. They have fused their work with that of dancers, pop singers, DJ’s, electronic music artists, painters, installation artists, photographers and lighting designers. Next year, the Ahns will premiere Mark O’Conner’s Triple Concerto as well as Nikolai Kapustin’s second trio (Mr. Kapustin wrote his first and only trio for the Ahns). Wherever the Ahns go, they share their innovative spirit and ever-evolving vision of music.
Yonghong (Jenny) Jia
Yong-Hong (Jenny) Jia Kunqu Opera Performer studies voice at the Central Traditional Singing and Dancing School from age 15. She also studied dancing and piano at the China Arts School in Beijing and attended the Beijing Traditional Opera School, where she studied under the leading Kunju actress. Specializing in Hua Dan (vivacious young girl) roles, she has performed throughout China in many Kunju productions such as The Peony Pavilion. From year 1991 Yong-Hong Jia also engaged in various TV and movie productions. As a leading actress, she has won many awards for her acting. Yong-Hong Jia was invited by New York Lincoln Center Festival production, The Peony pavilion in year 1999, than performed this production around the world, such as France, Italy, Denmark, Australia and Singapore, etc. She also performs Beijing Opera and folk songs in many cities in North America.
Zhongmei Li began her dance training at the Beijing Dance Academy, China’s foremost dance institution, and continued in the U. S. winning full scholarships to study at both the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham schools. She performed on Broadway in the long-running musical “The King and I,” and she earned a master’s degree in fine arts at the Tisch School at New York University. In 1994, she created the Zhongmei Dance Company, with which she performed all over the United States. In addition, she has performed in many other countries, including Singapore, France, Israel, and Brazil. She is a regular guest performer with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Zhongmei’s story is available in a non-fiction book, “A Girl Named Faithful Plum,” by Richard Bernstein.
Kerry Lee is the Co-Artistic Director of the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company and a former principal dancer of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company. After graduating from Stanford University with an engineering degree and working for a top-ranked economic consulting firm, she followed her heart into the professional dance world in New York City. As a traditional Chinese and modern/contemporary dance artist, Kerry performed throughout the US and the British Virgin Islands with the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, H.T. Chen & Dancers, Dance China NY, and gloATL before returning home to co-lead the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company with her mother Hwee-Eng Y. Lee. Among other honors, Kerry was the only Chinese dancer among the finalists who received a ticket on So You Think You Can Dance Season 11
Jason Kao Hwang
The music of Jason Kao Hwang (composer/violin/viola) explores the vibrations and language of his history. His compositions are often narrative landscapes through which sonic beings embark upon extemporaneous, transformational journeys. His most recent releases, Conjure, his duo with Karl Berger, and Blood, performed by Burning Bridge, his octet of Chinese and Western instruments, have received critical acclaim. In 2019, 2018, 2013 and 2012, the El Intruso International Critics Poll voted him #1 for Violin/Viola. In 2017 Downbeat Magazine named his quintet Sing House as one of the best of the year. His 2015 CD Voice, which features vocalists Deanna Relyea and Tom Buckner received critical acclaim. Zilzal, his duets with Ayman Fanous, was named one of the Top CDs of 2014 by All About Jazz/ Italy. The 2012 Downbeat Critics’ Poll voted Mr. Hwang as Rising Star for Violin. The first Burning Bridge was one of the top CDs of 2012 by Jazziz and the Jazz Times. In 2011 he released Symphony of Souls performed by his improvising string orchestra, Spontaneous River. In 2010, the New York Jazz Record selected Commitment, The Complete Recordings, 1981-1983 from a collective that was Mr. Hwang’s first band, as one the 2010 Reissued Recordings of the Year. His quartet EDGE released, EDGE (2006), Stories Before Within (2008), and Crossroads Unseen (2011), all of which appeared on many top ten of the year lists. His chamber opera The Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown was one of the Top Ten Opera Recordings of 2005 by Opera News. As composer, Mr. Hwang has received support from Chamber Music America, NEA, Rockefeller Foundation, NY Community Trust, NJSCA, NYSCA, US Artists International and others. As violinist, he has worked with William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Butch Morris, Reggie Workman, Pauline Oliveros, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomeka Reid, Patrick Brennan, Will Connell, Jr., Zen Matsuura, Oliver Lake, Adam Rudolph, Jerome Cooper and others.
Yueqin (Eugenie) Chen
Yueqin ‘Eugenie’ Chen 陈玥駸 is a classically trained Ruan and Liuqin artist, and currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. Born and raised in Shanghai, China, she started playing ruan at the age of five and liuqin at age nine. Chen gained admittance into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 2003 and studied ruan and liuqin performance with Professor Wu Qiang. In 2007, Chen was invited by the China Central Television to record a solo performance of “A Remote Song” (幽远的歌声) for a program featuring top young musicians in the nation. Later that year, her ensemble Jin Qi (金豈组合) took first place in the National Classical Chinese Music Competition. She remains an active performer after moving to New York and has appeared in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and other venues both as a soloist and a collaborator. In 2015, she was invited to perform at the
2015 Met Gala themed China: Through the Looking Glass; as a featured guest artist and shared stage with Rihanna
Mr. Yichuan Yan, born in Shanghai, China, is widely regarded as one the best Jing Hu players of his generation. After he started his Jing Hu training at age 9, he fell in love with the instrument immediately. His talent became quite obvious in early age. As he studied in Shanghai Opera Academy, he soon caught eyes of Jing Hu masters. A few approached his parents to offer him additional in person lessons. His love, talent and the unique education experience made him a rare young lead Jing Hu player at age of 24 in Beijing Opera House of Shanghai. Through years of collaborations with elite performing artists, he gained national fame and established as an elite Jing Hu player.
In 1997, Mr. Yan and his family moved to US and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he founded Zhen Xing opera club. While his focus shifted to education and culture exchange after he moved to Los Angeles, he has continued to collaborate with performing artists from different continents to perform in places like New York, Los Angeles, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc... In recent years, Mr. Yan’s work has been collected to China Jing Hun archive. He also becomes a coach that many young professional Jing Hu player would come to for advice.
Chen-Yu Tsuei 崔珍瑜
Founder, President and Instructor at the Chinese Cultural and Arts Institute, Harrisburg, PA. Ms. Tsuei began her dance training at the age of five and has won many national dance competitions in her country. At the age of 16, she was a member of Kaohsiung Contemporary Dance Company of Taiwan. In 1989, she came to the United States with a special audition as a scholarship student at The Juilliard School and continued her dance training at The Boston Conservatory, Drexel University, Jacob’s Pillow and The Paris Opera Ballet School for Teaching Program etc. In 1990, she won the First Prize of Chinese-American Performing Arts Competition. Ms. Tsuei has received her BFA Degree from The Juilliard School and her M S Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University.
Ms. Tsuei’s professional experience include various cross cultural performances with The Lincoln Center program, the First Asian Contemporary Dance Festival, Dance Around World, Guest Artist at the Visual/Media Center at MIT, DePass Dance Company, instructors at the Boston Conservatory, DePass Dance Co., Berks Ballet Theater, Omega Dance Co, Columbia University, Long Island University, Colorado State University, Light of Life Performing Arts and Central Pennsylvania Chinese Association. Over the past decade she has performed at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and St. John’s Divine. During the year of 1996-2001, she was the Artistic Director of Danse Nova in Kaohsiung, Taiwan R.O.C. In 2008, Ms. Tsuei received “Woman who cares” awards. Currently, she is the Founder /President of Chinese Cultural & Arts Institute since year 2000. She received teacher’s certifications from OCAC since 2010. Since 2005, she has received NEA funded Master/Apprentice scholarships in preserving traditional Chinese dance.
Yang Xiao Di
Yang Xiao Di was born in Shanghai, China, at the age of 6, Yang Xiao Di became an apprentice acrobat with the Pan Ying family, performing at the Shanghai Big World Entertainment Center. He rapidly excelled in a variety of Chinese acrobatic genres, including equilibristics (handstands, headstands, and balancing skills), juggling (devil stick, Diablo, spinning plate, boomerangs and flying tridents), trapeze, teeter board, the traditional Lion Dances and clowning. In 1988-89, Yang Xiao Di and the NanJing Troupe joined forces with America’s Big Apple Circus, touring the Northern United States, including a long run at Lincoln Center, in a program titled “East meets West: The Big Apple Circus Meets the Money King.” Yang Xiao Di was the centerpiece of the program, playing the “Monkey King”, a traditional clown-like character from Chinese Opera.
During 1992, Yang Xiao Di was hired to give performances in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In 1993, Yang Xiao Di joined the National Circus Project (NCP), becoming their first exchange artist from the People’s Republic of China. With the arrival of his wife and son in the U.S later that year, Yang Xiao Di became a permanent Senior Artist/ Instructor on the NCP staff. He has toured in hundreds of public schools and community centers throughout the U.S., performing and teaching circus skills in his unique style to hundreds of thousands of American children.
HONG-TAO SUN (Pipa) is a distinguished musician and the Executive Director of the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. He graduated from the music School of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he studied with the renowned pipa (pear-shaped lute) Master teachers Zhong-le Wei and Rong-Zhu Ying.
From 1974-1991, he was a principal soloist when he worked at the Shanghai Dance Academy and performed with Shanghai Performing Arts Troupe until he came to the United States in January 1991. Mr. Sun is the principal of the plucking string section of the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York and represents the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York in many performances as a soloist and teaches pipa in the educational programs of the Chinese Music Ensemble. Mr. Sun has been selected as the Executive Director of Chinese Music Ensemble of New York since 2011.
PeiJu Chien-Pott is an internationally acclaimed contemporary dance artist from
Taiwan, described as “one of the greatest living modern dancers” , celebrated
particularly for her work as Principal Dancer with the Martha Graham Dance
Company and her performances in the iconic roles of the Graham repertory. On the
theater stage, PeiJu was Principal Actress in the latest Kung Fu musical “Dragon
Spring Phoenix Rise” commissioned by The Shed and choreographed by Akram
Khan. Her many awards include a Bessie for “Outstanding Performance”, Positano
Premia La Danza Leonide Massine for “Best Female Contemporary Dancer”, Capri
International Dance Awards, included “Best Performers” in the 2014 and 2017
Dance Magazines, and numerous awards in her native Taiwan. PeiJu currently
serves as a faculty member at The Ailey School and her commercial work
represented by MMG New York.
Namhui Kim, Dancer was born and raised in Tokyo and is of Korean heritage. She began her training with Hiromi Dance Company in ballet, jazz, tap, theater, and voice. She performed in many theater productions such as Annie that toured Japan. Namhui came to New York City in 2017 to pursue a BA in Dance at Hunter College, CUNY where she got opportunities to train in the Parsons Dance summer intensive, and the winter intensives with Monica Bill Barnes & Co. along with Doug Varone and Dancers as a full scholarship student. She also received training at The Ailey School as a professional division student in 2019. She has also danced in works by Blakeley White-McGuire, Larry Keigwin, Peter Cheng, Jessica Castro, Rebecca Margolick, Jamie Thompson, and Karisma Jay. Besides dancing she also works at Orthopedic Movement Physical Therapy as Dr. Miho Urisaka’s assistant, exploring how she can help people who have physical problems and interests in their body improvement.
Thibaut Witzled is a graduate of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Ailey School where he earned a Horton Teaching certification. He had the opportunity to dance “Revelations” with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City Center in 2019 which was broadcasted on network television. He also took part in Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Table of Silence 9/11 Memorial in Lincoln Center for the past 3 years. Thibaut danced with Mosley’s Hearts of Men Diversity of Dance, International Ballet Festival of Union City, Ballet Beyond Borders International Los Angeles and with the Fordham and Columbia. University. Thibaut also worked for the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Paul Taylor Dance Foundation and the Dance Magazine Awards 2019 and 2020. Besides dancing for Nai-Ni Chen, Thibaut is assisting emerging choreographer Nobert de la Cruz.
Yuka Notsuka Dancer born in Fukuoka, Japan. She began her Ballet training in her hometown at age four. Later she broadened her training to include Jazz and Tap. She worked as a performer in Universal Studios Japan and Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki from 2011-2015. Later Yuka moved to New York City to further pursue her career as a dancer. In 2015 she entered the Ailey School as a scholarship student. She performed in Ailey Spirit Gala Concert at Lincoln Center choreographed by Tracy Inman (Co-Director, The Ailey School) and Robert Battle (Artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater). In New York, she also has been in training and served as Teaching Assistant at the Luigi Jazz Dance Center under Francis J. Roach.
Our vision is that the immigrant’s journey of crossing culture and adapting to the new home provides endless inspirations and opportunities for creative expressions that can enrich the human experience. Each one of our productions is aimed to increase the visibility of the struggle, triumph, despair and joy on this amazing, timeless journey.
In NY and NJ area, our programs: The Chinese New Year Celebration has been a culture staple in Newark, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island since 1996; the Annual Imagine Ellis Island AAPI Heritage Festival presenting a diverse array of Asian American traditional dance artists in collaboration with the National Park Service since 2015; Asian American choreographers, dancers and musicians sharing the stage in the CrossCurrent Contemporary Dance Festival at Flushing Town Hall highlights the creativity of the Asian American community since 2013. Besides these activities, the Company has been in the school assemblies of millions of K-12 students in NY/NJ/PA area as well as in countless AAPI community festivals and celebrations. These lockdown during the pandemic have inspired The Bridge in 2021, a daily virtual dance class featuring a diverse array of 24 BIPOC collaborators. These ongoing programs showcases the immigrant’s journey and serve to advance the visibility of the Asian American art , artists and our relationship with the broader communities.
Most of the dancers in the Company are immigrants themselves. Choreography is developed with dancers from diverse backgrounds working collaboratively with Nai-Ni Chen, each rehearsal is an immersive, boundary-crossing journey that contributes to the creative process. Their experience places an indelible mark on the dance and naturally brings forth issues of identity, authenticity, and equality.