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Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and Leonia Senior Center Are Bringing Music and Movement to Seniors

originally published: 02/14/2024

Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and Leonia Senior Center Are Bringing Music and Movement to Seniors

(LEONIA, NJ) -- The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, which has worked with the Leonia Senior Center since 2022, has announced two new eight-week seniors' residencies, in both music and creative dance, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Creative Aging Initiative.

Since 2022, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company has conducted senior Tai Chi Classes at the center, which have been well attended. The Leonia Senior Center serves the Borough of Leonia, as well as seniors from neighboring towns - the center's classes, activities and trips are open to any seniors (55+) from surrounding towns.

"I am thrilled we will have the opportunity to reach more seniors and provide them with movement and socializing with this grant. Nai-Ni Dance company launched a terrific Morning Tai Chi class , and now with this grant, we can offer seniors Creative Dance for Seniors with Rio Kikuchi and Music and Movement with Julie Sung as free classes" said Maggie Browne, Senior Coordinator.

The music residency will be taught by Leonia Recreation Center instructor Julie Sung from May to July 2024, in the Leonia Senior Center at 305 Beechwood Pl., Leonia, NJ. The creative dance for seniors residency will be taught by Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company member Rio Kikuchi from September to December 2024, in the Leonia Sculpture Garden, weather permitting, or in the Center when necessary.

By focusing on language accessibility, accessible space, and using Asian American instructors, the project team provides an environment that is free of visible and invisible barriers. The classes will be a welcoming experience for all participants, with proper respect being paid to the Asian immigrant participants.



 
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In 2022, Nai-Ni Chen was a 2022 Bessie Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Nai-Ni Chen was a force in the dance community with her unique choreographic body of work that fuses Eastern cultural forms of Chinese dance and the Western world of modern dance. Her vision of the immigrant’s journey of crossing cultures and adapting to a new home provided endless inspirations and opportunities for creative expressions that enrich the human experience.

About the Artists:

Julie Sung has worked in music education for over 20 years, working not only with seniors but with children. She has a background in music theory and music appreciation, as well as experience as a music and movement coordinator. Since 2009, she has worked at Leonia Recreation, and in 2023, she  expanded her offerings to working with Leonia Senior Center in 2023.Leonia Senior Center as a Senior Music & Movement Instructor, teaching cardio drumming to seniors.

Rio Kikuchi was born in Tokyo, Japan. At the 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 technique and Point work privately with Luis Villanueva. In 2017, Rio moved to New York and was offered a scholarship to study at The School of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In addition, she received a scholarship at Alonzo King Lines Ballet Summer Program in 2019. She has worked with Ronni Favors, Darshan Singh Bhuller and performed “Memora” with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at New York City Center in 2018.

Choreographer/Dancer, Nai-Ni Chen (1959-2021), was a unique artist whose work crosses cultural boundaries. Each of her dances reflect her personal vision as an immigrant and an American female artist with deep roots in Asian culture. From this perspective, she created new works that reflect current issues with global influences. Many of her works were developed in collaboration with renowned artists such as the Ahn Trio, Glen Velez, Joan La Barbara, Rokafella, The Chinese Music Ensemble and the New Asia Chamber Music Society.

Bridging the grace of Asian elegance and American dynamism, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is a premier provider of innovative cultural experiences that reflect the inspiring hope and energy of the immigrant's journey. The company's ground-breaking works have focused on themes from ancient legends that reflect issues of the present time to purely abstract, contemporary dances influenced by a mix of cultures Nai-Ni Chen experienced in New York. An Asian American company that celebrates cross-cultural experience, the Company's productions naturally bring forth issues of identity, authenticity, and equality.

The Company has presented at some of the most prestigious concert halls such as the Joyce Theater, Lincoln Center in New York, and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Florida. The Company appears annually at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Queens College, the College of Staten Island and on Ellis Island. Internationally, the Company has presented at international festivals including Open Look Festival in Russia, the Silesian International Contemporary Dance Festival, the Konfrontations International Festival in Poland, the Chang Mu International Dance Festival in Korea, the Meet in Beijing International Arts Festival in China, and the Tamaulipas International Arts Festival in Mexico.



 
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The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company has received more than 20 awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and numerous Citations of Excellence and grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Advancing Dance Education, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is currently in residence in New Jersey City University pioneering a program with the University's A Harry Moore Laboratory School teaching dance to urban children with disabilities.

Programs of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company are made possible by the generous support of our Board members, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF), the New Jersey Cultural Trust, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, The New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund administered by the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, E.J. Grassman Trust, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, New Music USA, the Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund, the Rapid Response Program of American Dance Abroad, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Cultural Exchange Fund, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, PSEG, Proskauer, WAC Lighting, and the Glow Foundation and the Dragon and Phoenix Foundation.


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