What We Do
“Like visual poetry, Chen’s phrases… embodied an epic dignity.”
the Village Voice
The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company creates innovative dances that reflect the hope and energy that propels the immigrant’s journey.
Nai-Ni Chen has been making dances that bridge the richness of Asian art and the dynamic spirit of American dance for over thirty years. The dances she makes as an immigrant artist is her contribution to her new home. As immigrants, Asian American is a small minority and the Asian American culture is often overlooked as being an integral part of the diverse American culture. Every step the Company takes is part of getting people to be aware of our existence as Asian American, to promote the uniqueness of our work, and to recognize its contribution to the diversity of this society.
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. The experience places an indelible mark on the dance and naturally brings forth issues of identity, authenticity, and equality.
Celebrating 30 years of dance making, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is a rare Asian American female-led touring company that honors and advances the dynamic spirit of Chinese American cultural tradition. A cross-cultural choreographer who aims to bring the audience across cultural boundaries, Nai-Ni Chen’s unique choreographic styles reflect the grace and splendor of the Chinese cultural traditions she studied in Taiwan, and the dynamic spirit of modern and contemporary dance she acquired in New York. The Company’s contribution to the community has been honored by OCA, the leading national Asian American advocacy organization, NJ Chinese American Chamber of Commerce, and the International Institute in Jersey City. The Company has toured extensively in the US and international festivals around the world and has the honor of more than 20 awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In the NYC area, the Company has been creating culturally relevant work to celebrate the Chinese New Year for Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx Community, Staten Island College, and NJPAC since 1996. The Company is joined by a diverse array of Asian American performing artists in the Annual Imagine Ellis Island Festival produced in collaboration with the National Park Service since 2013. Asian American dancers and musicians share the stage in the CrossCurrent Festival at Flushing Townhall highlights the creativity of the Asian American community since 2014. These programs serve to advance the visibility of the Asian American community.
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, was 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 the NJ Regional Day School for students with Autism.
“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
About Nai-Ni Chen
Nai-Ni Chen is 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. 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 colleges 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.
Ethan Gwynn was born State College Pennsylvania where he began his dance training at the Performing Arts School of Central Pennsylvania under the guidance of Andrea Hill and Lane Grosser. Subsequently, he joined the Staycee Pearl Dance Project. He continued his training at both the Certificate Program of the Alvin Ailey American Dance School and the French Ballet Academy. Ethan has continued to perform with companies such as Project 44, Tanz Theater, Bloodline Dance Theater, Pennsylvania Dance Workshop, American Liberty Ballet Company, and Mystic Dance. Ethan has also worked with artists such as Matthew Rushing, Nicholas Vilenueve, Staycee Pearl, Andre Kosloski, and Leonie Stein.
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.
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.
Born in Tokyo,Japan. At age of 3, Rio began ballet training at Studio Benus in Japan and later she was introduced to Tap and Jazz. She took Summer Intensive at Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington DC in 2015. She also studied Ballet technic and Point work privately with Luis Villanueva. In 2017, Rio moved to New York and was offered Scholarship to study at The School of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In addition, she received Scholarship at Alonzo King Lines Ballet Summer Program in 2019. She has worked with Ronni Favors, Darshan Singh Bhuller. She has peformed "Memora" with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at New York City Center in 2018.
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 Battl e(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
Collaborators and Guest Artists
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 joined the Graham Company in 2011. She received the Positano Premia La Danza 2014 award for Best Contemporary Dancer, was named one of the year’s “Best Performers” in 2014 and 2017 by Dance Magazine, was an honoree of the “Women’s History Month” by Hudson County and received a 2017 Bessie award for Outstanding Performer. Ms. Chien-Pott has created lead roles by many of the world’s most celebrated choreographers including Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, and Andonis Foniadakis. She graduated with a BFA. from Taipei National University of the Arts, and has since been honored with their Outstanding Alumni Award. She recently received an Outstanding Dance Artist Award from the government of Taiwan.
In 2014, Ms. Chien-Pott joined the Martha Graham Dance Company as Principal Dancer. She has been honored with the POSITANO PREMIA LA DANZA “LEONIDE MASSINE” 2014 for "Most Outstanding Female Dancer on the Contemporary Scene" and named one of the "Best Performers of the Year" by Dance Magazine in 2014 and 2017. Ms. Chien-Pott was one of the honorees of the "Women‘s History Month" 2015 in Hudson County. In 2017, She received a prestigious Bessie Award for "Outstanding Performer" in Dance , and received Outstanding Alumni Award from Taipei National University of the Arts. . In 2018, Ms. Chien-Pott received Capri International Award in Dance, and she is selected as a “Outstanding Elite” in Performing Arts by The Generation T List of Asia Tatler. In 2019, Ms Chien-Pott is selected as Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Taiwan by Junior Chamber International.
Ms. Chien-Pott has taught modern dance, contemporary dance and performance workshops for several institutions, dance studios including Duke University, Martha Graham Dance School, School of Nimbus, Taipei National University of the Arts, Ballet Forte, Rutgers University, Ballet Intensive NYC, Union County Academy for Performing Arts, Zhengzhou Institute of Technology (as an honorary professor), Wuhan Conservatory of Music, and others.