Limón Dance Company, in Colin Connor's "Corvidae" Photo: Christopher Duggan
Limón Dance Company, in Colin Connor's

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Dance News: Chen Dance Center Celebrates 1st "Chinese American Heritage Week"

Dance News: Chen Dance Center Celebrates 1st "Chinese American Heritage Week"

Published on September 24, 2019
Photo credit: Joe Boniello

The Company Also Celebrates The 150th Anniversary Of The 1st US Transcontinental Railroad Among Others

Chen Dance Center, the nation’s largest Asian American dance institution, will celebrate the New York State Senate resolution (6/18/19) recognizing the first week of October 2019, as “Chinese American Heritage Week” to strengthen the friendship and bilateral relationship between the State of New York and Chinese Americans; while also recognizing that Chinese Americans helped complete the Transcontinental Railroad and 1 in 5 Chinese Americans were enlisted to serve in World War II.

On Sunday, September 29th at 5pm, H.T. Chen & Dancers will perform two excerpts from their repertory: 

South of Gold Mountain draws from rich oral histories and treasured images of Chinese settlers.  “They were lured to America by the promise of gold and a better life in the southern states before World War II,” stated CDC’s Artistic Director H.T. Chen.

Transparent Hinges is an abstract journey of the Chinese in America, from the past to the present, combining modern dance with movement from traditional movement arts.  Evoking the past are images of the first arrivals of ‘dreamers’ in the US to San Francisco’s Angel Island Immigration Station, where Chinese immigrants were detained (from 1910 to 1940 due to anti-Chinese legislation and prejudice), to the present day struggles and repression with the use of a yellow flag to symbolize the 1960s Yellow Power movement.

Photo credit: Chen Dance Center

Other related events include a retrospective of award-winning images by photographer/activist Corky Lee. Upon reviewing the photograph commemorating the 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the second-generation Chinese American was “struck by the fact that there were no Chinese workers in the photo depicting representative laborers. Yet two-thirds of the workforce, 15,000 Chinese, had worked and sacrificed their lives in its construction.”  In 2014, as an act of “photographic justice,” Mr. Lee went to Promontory Point, Utah, to reshoot the photo with 200 Chinese Americans (including workers’ descendants) from across the country, correcting their absence from 145 years before as a “neglected and forgotten piece” of Asian American history. 

There will also be two post-performance talk-backs: The first will underscore the importance of the first Chinese American Heritage Week, recognition of Chinese laborers on the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad, and the impact of Corky Lee’s work on the Asian American community. The second discussion will focus on the Chinese American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act (signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018 by President Trump, paying tribute to the 20,000 Chinese American veterans who served our country in World War II, despite prevalent discrimination at the time. Veterans of Chinatown’s American Legion Post 1291 will share memories of the men and women who enlisted in each branch of the armed services in WWII.  This event is free, RSVP 9/29 required

On Friday, October 4th at 6pm, there will be a film screening of H.T. Chen’s Transparent Hinges (1996) whose title refers to the "hyphenated Americans" of dual heritage.  Based on extensive research, personal interviews, and visits to the “Ellis Island of the West,” it is a tribute to the perseverance of Chinese American laborers of the Transcontinental Railroad and the adversity faced by immigrants detained at Angel Island. A post-screening talk-back on first-hand accounts of courage and resilience from descendants of the railroad workers and immigration station detainees. **This event is free but RSVP before October 4th 2019.

Both events take place at Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry Street, 2nd floor, on the corner of Mulberry and Bayard Sts., one block south of Canal St. Subway: N, Q, R, W, 6 trains to Canal St.; B and D to Grand St. For more info, please contact: Yeeli Chen: 212.349.0126, yeeli@chendancecenter.org


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