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Nai-Ni Chen

“Spiritual Choreographer” -Dance Magazine

“A rare modern dance choreographer…”-NY Times

Nai-Ni Chen is the founder, choreographer and Artistic Director of the Nai-Ni Chen
Dance Company. Nai-Ni Chen comes from a rich dance tradition. She was a renowned traditional dancer who studied with some of the most respected Peking Opera and traditional dance masters in Taiwan. She served on several ambassadorial culture missions to 19 countries around the world. An early member of the Cloud Gate Dance Theater, she graduated from the Chinese Cultural University and came to America to seek her own voice in the world of contemporary dance. Since then, Ms. Chen has created a diverse repertory with dances some from hundreds of years ago to highly abstract, modern works. Touring over 20 years around the United State, her company is the premier resource for immigrant Chinese American cross-cultural dance works for presenters across the country. In addition to domestic touring, her company has also visited international festivals in Mexico, Canada, Germany, British Virgin Islands, Guatemala, 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.

Nai-Ni Chen has received multiple Choreographer Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the NJ State Council on the Arts. Her work has been commissioned by the Joyce Theater Foundation, the Lincoln Center Institute, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Towson University, Dancing in the Streets, Ballet Met, and the Cleveland Dancing Wheels. She has taught master classes at colleges and universities throughout the United States and Russia, Poland, Taiwan, Mongolia and China. Nai-Ni Che is currently in residence in New Jersey City University creating new dance program for the university as well as starting a new collaboration with the A Harry Moore Laboratory School for children with multiple disabilities.

Commissioned dances  include Peach Flower Landscape for the Lincoln Center Institute, Qian Kun for the Joyce Theater Foundation, Unfolding for Dancing in the Streets, The Three Riddles of Turandot for New Jersey Ballet, Unconquered Warriors for Dancing Wheels, and Water and Tiger Lily for Ballet Met, The Way of Five – Fire for Townson University; Dragons on the Wall, a collaboration with Nobel Literature nominee Bei Dao and internationally acclaimed composer Joan La Barbara for the Alternate Roots Festival curated by Baraka Sele of New Jersey Performing Arts Center.  Nai-Ni Chen has also set her seminal work Bamboo Prayer for Case Western Reserve University.

In New York, she has taught at Mary Anthony Dance Studio, Peridance and NYU, where she received her MA in Dance and Dance Education. She has been a principal affiliate artist of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center since its inception.  She is currently Artist in Residence at New Jersey City University.  On television, Ms. Chen is an often-featured artist on PBS/NJN’s State of the Arts as well as serving as a dance competition judge for Sinovision USA, a Chinese language TV channel in the community. For her contribution to the Chinese American culture, she has received awards from New Jersey International Institute, the Organization of Chinese Americans, and Chinese American Chamber of Commerce.  She has also served on Dance related panels for the National Endowment for the Arts.

 Nai-Ni Chen Salon Interview

 

Artistic Vision

I am an immigrant Asian American choreographer, I feel the need to explore the resilience, will power and strength that I see in my community and communicate it to everyone. At the same time, I derive immense joy of passing the tradition that I inherited to my audience and the next generation. The extreme differences and commonalities in the traditional Chinese and contemporary American cultures that I embody offers a wellspring of inspiration. A greater capacity to embrace the experience, and work towards blazing a path to advance a more equal, inclusive and artistic future has become my mission.

Today, I am creating contemporary works that address the issues of personal, artistic and spiritual freedom that lies in the core of being an immigrant artist. I often incorporate folk rhythms, ritual and visual elements in my dance because not only I want to advance the state of the art, but also to tap into the living energy from the past that is shaping our future everyday.

Selected Quotes

of Nai-Ni Chen

 

“The Chinese traditional dance – The training I had since I was four years old – involves the entire culture, not just the dance steps.  The Western modern dance I learned is not just Martha Graham technique or a Jose Limon technique; to me it is the entire way of thinking, the freedom, the expression of it.  Besides learning the two different dance cultures, I tried to learn how Western people think, and how Chinese people think.”

 

“When I first visited America, I felt a sense of freedom.  As I walk on the street, I can feel the energy of this freedom.  I knew this energy will help me to grow in my artistic endeavor.”

“a characteristic of Chinese traditional dance is multi-layered circular movements.  The floor patterns also tend to be circular…  My work is also influenced by visual art, so I tend to use both positive and negative space to create contrasting dynamics on stage.”

“What I express is the balance between yin and yang – which is the soft quality and the strong quality, the heavy and the light, the two extremes in multiple dimensions.”

 

Principal Affiliate Statement

for NJ Performing Art Center

Since I was a child, the floating cloud in the sky often touched me.  It was the wondrous shapes they made as they were blown by the wind.  And when I heard the powerful sound the pine forest made in the wind, it fascinated me.   Off the coast of Keelong (a city in Taiwan) where I grew up, I also remembered watching schools of tropical fish swimming in the blue water forming diverse patterns and color which made me want to join their joyful dance right there.  As I grew older, I loved the mountain.  Its magnificent strength embodies the power of the earth, and all the living things around it.  In our life, everyday is a fascinating journey of discovery.  Each discovery we make has a significant influence on our future.

As I looked back, I realized how much an impact the surrounding has made on me as an artist.  And now, when I walk on the streets in America, I feel the enormous freedom and vitality of the people of this land.  That’s what nourishes me for the past fifteen years.  My dance reflects what I am and how I feel about the world.   I believe dance is a way to express the passion of life in all of us.  An expression beyond words; it can cross cultural boundaries and be shared by all people.