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 mission is to be a premier provider of innovative cultural experiences that reflect the inspiring hope and energy of the immigrant’s journey. It was founded with the vision that the immigrant’s journey of crossing cultures and adapting to a new home provides endless inspirations and opportunities for creative expressions that can enrich the human experience. Each one of the company’s work is aimed to increase the visibility of the struggle, triumph, despair and joy of this experience. The Company's productions provide cross-cultural experiences and bring forth issues of identity, authenticity, and equality. 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.
Choreography is developed with dancers from diverse backgrounds, and each rehearsal is an immersive, boundary-crossing journey that contributes to the creative process under the direction of the choreographers. Our diverse repertory of Nai-Ni Chen's original works bridge the grace and power of Asian arts and American dynamism which incorporated her broad influences. The company also preserves a variety of festive dances from different regions of China choreographed by guest immigrant artists bearing the tradition.
The Company began to tour in the early 1990s, originally on the East Coast, and later internationally. The dance company is multi-racial and multi-national and has collaborated with a wide range of artists from different disciplines and cultures. 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. These collaborations provided us the opportunity to develop innovative productions that carry the timeless essence of the tradition, crossing cultural boundaries without compromising the integrity of the art.
In addition to domestic touring, the 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.
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.
Nai-Ni Chen (1959-2021) comes from a rich dance tradition. She has been trained in traditional Chinese Dance in Taiwan since she was four years old and became an outstanding performer at an early age. She studied with a generation of artists who came to Taiwan with the government to escape from the turmoil of the civil war. Beginning at age eighteen, she was selected by the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to serve on several ambassadorial culture missions to nineteen countries. Aside from being a Chinese Traditional Dancer, her dance experience was broadened and enriched by joining the Cloud Gate Dance Theater as an early member and the youngest at the time. Under the direction of Lin Huai-Ming, Ms. Chen was brought into the world of modern dance. After graduating from the Chinese Cultural University by receiving the highest honor from the President in 1982, she came to America to seek her own voice in the world of contemporary dance. At NYU, she studied with Doris Rudko, Ellen Tittler, Bertram Ross, and Mary Anthony. In 1988, with encouragement from Mary Anthony, she established the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company with her husband, Andy Chiang.
As one of the very few professional Asian American Choreographers in the US, Ms. Chen worked in the studio everyday with her dances. She has created over 90 new works in the past 33 years. Her repertory includes both dances that originated thousands of years ago and highly abstract, modern creations. In the early days, her works are often inspired by the poetic motion of the Chinese painting brush, by folk rituals and ceremonies, vision of nature and encounters as an immigrant in America. In many of her later works, she spoke against the division and injustice in America.
Winning critical acclaim worldwide, Ms. Chen has received a Choreographer’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her work has been commissioned by the Joyce Theater Foundation, the Lincoln Center Institute, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Dancing in the Streets, and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. She has taught master classes at colleges and universities throughout the United States which included a four-week residency at Towson University in Maryland. She also has taught in dance festivals in Russia, Poland, Taiwan, and China. She co-founded the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company in 1988 and has been the choreographer and Artistic Director since its inception. Her company was invited to performed in over thirty states in the US and many countries in Europe, Central America and Asia. Besides creating dances for her own Company, she has choreographed for Opera—Turandot for both the Westfield Symphony’s production at PNG Center and the Boheme Opera Company’s production at the War Memorial Hall in Trenton, New Jersey. As a guest choreographer, she has recently created a piece for the “Dancing Wheels”, of Cleveland, Ohio. She is also invited as one of the choreographers for Ballet Met’s 30X30 project. In New York, Ms. Chen has taught at the Mary Anthony Dance Studio, Peridance, and New York University, where she received her MA in Dance and Dance Education. Ms. Chen received an Arts Achievement Award from the International Institute of New Jersey in 2001. She also has earned numerous awards from the Chinese American community, including one from the Organization of Chinese Americans for her achievement in arts and education and for her substantial contribution to the community. She has been a principal affiliate artist of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center since its inception. Ms. Chen also appeared many times as a featured artist on “State of the Arts”-a PBS/NJN TV production.
Founding Artistic Director
Nai-Ni Chen (1959-2021)
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.
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.