The internationally renowned dancer and choreographer Nai-Ni Chen died tragically in a swimming accident late in 2021. In this week's special program, State of the Arts takes a touching look back at the life and artistry of one of New Jersey's most revered artists.
Born and trained in Taiwan, she came to the USA in her early 20s, melding her own centuries-old traditions with the contemporary dance she enthusiastically embraced in New York City. She founded the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company in Fort Lee, New Jersey in 1988. The multi-racial and multi-national company continues to perform their founder's work, as well as traditional Chinese dances. The documentary draws on State of the Arts footage and interviews dating back to the early 1990s.
Throughout the documentary we hear from colleagues, friends, dancers, and family, including Nai-Ni's husband Andy Chiang and daughter Sylvia Chiang. Maria Ahn of the Ahn Trio and composer Jason Kao Hwang are also featured. Jason composed the music for Nai-Ni's last work, Unity. It premiered at the New York Live Arts Festival just three months after Nai-Ni died. Nai-Ni's former student Paul Liu, now a member of the Pilobolus Dance Company, also appears along with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company's new artistic leaders, Greta Campo, Peiju Chien-Pott, and Ying Shi.
The program airs on NJ PBS on Wednesday, 7/27 @ 8:30pm; Thursday, 7/28 @ 11:30pm; Saturday, 7/30 @ 7:30pm; and Sunday, 7/31 @ 9:30am. It airs on WNET Thirteen on Sunday, 7/31 @ 11:30am and on ALL ARTS Monday, 8/1 @ 10:30am & 3:30pm and Wednesday, 8/3 @ 10:00am & 3:00pm.
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 is a dance company that celebrates cross-cultural experiences and brings 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. The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company 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 production is aimed to increase the visibility of the struggle, triumph, despair and joy.