January 24, 2022

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Nai-Ni Chen, Whose Dances Merged East and West, Dies at 62

Nai-Ni Chen, Whose Dances Merged East and West, Dies at 62

Nai-Ni Chen, a dancer and choreographer whose Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company has merged conventional Chinese language and up to date influences in performances everywhere in the United States in addition to abroad for 3 many years, died on Sunday in a swimming accident whereas vacationing in Hawaii. She was 62.

The incident occurred off Kailua Seashore in Oahu. Her husband and associate within the firm, Andrew N. Chiang, in a posting on the company’s Facebook page, mentioned that Ms. Chen went for a swim within the ocean and that her physique was discovered by a passer-by.

Ms. Chen was born in Taiwan and got here to the USA in 1982, planning to earn a grasp’s diploma at New York College (which she ultimately did) after which return to her residence nation to show. However the arts scene in New York proved irresistible.

“I used to be so excited in regards to the dancing in New York that I made a decision to remain moderately than train in Taiwan,” she instructed The TimesLedger of Queens in 2017.

Six years later, she and Mr. Chiang began the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, which started performing in and round New York from its headquarters in Fort Lee, N.J. By the early Nineties, its touring circle had begun increasing, first to Massachusetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, after which throughout the nation and past.

Ms. Chen had been skilled within the conventional dances of Taiwan and China earlier than settling in the USA, and her applications tended to present viewers members — a lot of whom, particularly within the early years, have been used to European-style dance — a special view of the artwork kind.

“I prefer to combine each aesthetics, Jap and Western,” she instructed The Los Angeles Occasions in 1994. “My dancers and I experiment every single day. I imagine that if I let motion come out naturally from my physique, if I communicate the reality from my coronary heart, it should specific my background — conventional Chinese language motion and a Western dance vocabulary.”

The corporate carried out conventional fan dances and ribbon dances, but additionally Ms. Chen’s personal works, which drew on many influences. Her “Movable Figures,” for instance, was impressed by Southeast Asian shadow puppetry. “Dragons on the Wall (Tianji)” suggests Chinese language calligraphy. “Raindrops” evokes her girlhood in Taiwan.

“I keep in mind as a toddler I might sit in my grandmother’s room and see the raindrops falling on the bottom,” she instructed The File of Bergen County, N.J., in 2003, when the work was on her program on the New Jersey Performing Arts Middle in Newark, a frequent cease for the troupe. “It made such an attention-grabbing sound — dut-dut-dut. It was very playful to me. Mysterious. It introduced me surprise.”

Nai-Ni Chen was born on Oct. 31, 1959, in Keelung, on the coast close to Taipei, to MayYun Wu, a trainer, and Hsing-Yin Chen, a dentist.

“My dad and mom at all times took us out to get near nature, the ocean, the seaside and the mountains,” she instructed The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1996, when her firm carried out in Fayetteville.

“Lots of my dances are impressed by nature,” she added. “That’s the Chinese language approach and philosophy: to emphasise the relation between human and nature. We attempt to discover a concord there.”

Greta Campo, a dancer and the corporate’s affiliate creative director, skilled firsthand how Ms. Chen blended the varied influences in her life and coaching.

“Her cultural background was at all times an inspiration for her,” she mentioned by electronic mail. “Nai-Ni Chen’s works are so distinctive as a result of they fused the liberty of American trendy dance with the grace and splendor of Asian artwork.”

Ms. Chen was uncovered to American tradition rising up in Taiwan, studying English as a second language and, as she instructed The File in 1988, watching the films of “these two males — the fats one and the skinny one who have been at all times getting in hassle.” That’s, Laurel and Hardy.

She started taking dance classes at 4 and discovered ballet and people dance earlier than enrolling, in her early teenagers, on the Chinese language Tradition College in Taipei, whose curriculum included trendy dance, jazz and Chinese language martial arts.

She spent three years with the Cloud Gate Dance Theater, Taipei’s first up to date dance firm, and took part in a number of government-sponsored worldwide excursions. Mr. Chiang, who’s Nai-Ni Chen Dance’s government director, instructed The Star-Ledger in 1999 that he first met his future spouse in 1978, when she was amongst a gaggle of visiting dancers who carried out on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how; he was enrolled there and was the coed actions coordinator.

“At that first second, I knew she was going to be my spouse,” he instructed the newspaper, though Ms. Chen mentioned she solely vaguely remembered their preliminary backstage encounter. The 2 stayed in contact, and so they married in 1982. Their daughter, Sylvia, additionally survives her.

Ms. Chen’s dance firm typically carried out at colleges, the place within the early years college students typically had little publicity to Chinese language arts.

“The youngsters simply like it,” she instructed The File in 1992. “Chinese language dance could be very colourful, and it’s utterly new to them.”

She was notably involved with placing throughout the affect of Asian tradition and Asian American immigrants on Western traditions. But it was some extent of delight to her that her troupe was multiracial and multinational. Discovering dancers who may deal with the calls for of mixing the standard and up to date was, she acknowledged, difficult, however she thought the hassle was worthwhile.

“I really feel optimistic as a result of ultimately, the message we try to convey to folks has every little thing to do with sharing cultures on this smaller and smaller trendy world,” she instructed The Star-Ledger in 1996. “Persons are , however there’s nonetheless a protracted solution to go. It takes a sure type of maturity to seek out one thing good in one other, utterly completely different and really international tradition.”

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