Interdisciplinary dance works giving artistic voice to Asian Americans

“LIGHT” film screenings!



LIGHT won Best Experimental Film at the Canada International Film Festival!

Click here for excerpts from LIGHT and an interview with producer / choreography director Lenora Lee 




CAAMFest 35 presents the World Premiere screening of the experimental narrative film
LIGHT (2017), 57 minutes
by Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki

in association with Lenora Lee Productions, Innocent Eyes and Lenses Films,
and Asian Improv aRts, powered by Asian Improv Nation

Saturday, 3/11, 7pm
Gray Area
2665 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Included in the program are live performances by Tatsu Aoki, Melody Takata and Lenora Lee Dance (Yao Dang, Yi-Ting Hsu, Lynn Huang, Wayne Tai Lee)

PAGES short experimental film by Tatsu Aoki & Melody Takata, 15 minutes (precedes LIGHT)
PAGES is a meditation on the emergence of Japanese modernist and experimentalist art movements.

Co-presented by Chinese Historical Society of America and Axis Dance Company

Click here for more info







Asian Women United of Minnesota, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women & Cornerstone
Invite You to the Twin Cities Premiere of LIGHT a Film by Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki

Thursday, 4/6, 2017
Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
University of Minnesota
301 – 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55455

2 Screenings: 3:30pm & 6:30pm
After each 57 minute screening, there will be a brief panel discussion with the filmmakers and a light reception to follow.

Click here for more info

Additional Event Partners:
University of Minnesota School of Social Work
University of Minnesota Asian American Studies Program
University of Minnesota Women’s Center
KC Fortune Cookie Factory








The Foundation for Asian American Independent Media presents
The Chicago Premiere screening of LIGHT
as part of the 22nd Annual Asian American Showcase

Included in the program is a short film The Detached with a special dance and music performance by Lenora Lee, Tatsu Aoki, Jamie Kempkers, and Jonathan Chen, along with a post-performance discussion.

Saturday, 4/8, 8pm
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State Street
Chicago, IL 60601

Click here for more info



The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Transnational Asian American Series at Columbia University present:
The New York Premiere film screening of LIGHT

Followed by talkback with Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki
Discussants: David Henry Hwang, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts in the Faculty of the Arts, Columbia University and
Karen Shimakawa, Associate Professor, Performance Studies, New York University

Tuesday, 4/11, 5pm
Casa Hispanica
Columbia University
612 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027

Organized by The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and the Department of Music. Co-sponsored by the Department of Dance at Barnard College, the Center for Ethnomusicology, the Center for Jazz Studies, the Heyman Center for the Humanities, and the Society of Fellows for the Humanities.

Click here for more info



The DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon welcomes the Pacific Northwest Premiere of LIGHT

Included in the program is a special performance by and a talkback with Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki

Sunday, 4/23, 6pm
Bijou Art Cinemas
492 East 13th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401

Click here for more info







The San Francisco Dance Film Festival presents LIGHT Saturday, 10/21, 1:30pm at Brava Theater Studio, Mezzanine, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco










Inspired by the life of Bessie M. Lee (1894 – 1955), who, after migrating to New York City, spent two years in indentured servitude, LIGHT is a film in which dance, memory, music and poetry collide in a visual and aural landscape; a meditation on women being propelled into the unknown by courage and faith to risk their lives and everything they have for freedom. In LIGHT, Aoki and Lee highlight the lives of women, including Bessie M. Lee, who through the resilience and triumph over unimaginable experiences, were grounding forces in the creation of the New York Chinatown community in the early 1900s.

In memory of Bessie M. Lee
(1894 – 1955)


Tatsu Aoki (director and filmmaker) is a prolific artist, a filmmaker, composer, musician, educator, and a consummate bassist and shamisen lute player. Based in Chicago, Aoki works in a wide range of musical genres, ranging from traditional Japanese music, jazz, experimental, and creative music and producing experimental films.

Aoki was born in Tokyo in 1957 to Toyaki Moto, an artisan family proficient in Okiya, the tradition of working as booking and training agents for geisha in downtown Tokyo. At the age of four, Aoki became part of his family performance crew and received the essence of traditional Tokyo geisha cultural training and studies, which combine history with creativity. In the late 1960s, upon Tokyo’s economic and social decline and his grandmother’s passing, he shifted his training to American pop and experimental music. By the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement as a member of Gintenkai, an experimental ensemble that combined traditional music and new Western forms. At the same time he began working in small-gauge and experimental films, influenced by his biological father, who was a movie producer at Shintoho Studio.

In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo to study experimental filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is now adjunct associate professor in the Film, Video, and New Media Department, teaching film production and history. He has produced more than 30 experimental films and is one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, appearing in over 90 recording projects.

Lenora Lee (producer, choreography director)
Lenora Lee has been a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and producer for the past 19 years in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. She has been an Artist Fellow at the de Young Museum, a Djerassi Resident Artist, and a Visiting Scholar at New York University through the Asian / Pacific / American Institute. She is currently an Artist in Residence at Dance Mission Theater.

For the last ten years she has been pushing the envelope of large-scale multimedia dance performance that connects various styles of movement and music to culture, history, and human rights issues. Her work has grown to encompass the creation, presentation, and screening of films, museum and gallery installations, civic engagement and educational programming. Lee creates works that are both set in public and private spaces, intimate and at the same time large-scale, inspired by individual stories as well as community strength.


Conceived & Produced by Lenora Lee

Directed & Edited by Tatsu Aoki

Cinematography by Tatsu Aoki, Zhuoyun Chen, Joshua Chuck, Ben Estabrook, Eric Koziol, Heath Orchard, Joel Wanek

Choreography by Lenora Lee in collaboration with the cast.
Main cast: Juliet Ante, Kara Davis, Marina Fukushima (playing Bessie M. Lee), Sebastian Grubb, Chin-chin Hsu, Yi-Ting Hsu, Lynn Huang, Wei-Shan Lai, Yukihiko Noda (playing Lawrence S. Lee), Olivia Ting

Additional Cast Members: Tatsu Aoki, Corey Chan, Ming Quan Chang, Xenia Chiu, Mike Kilo, Derek Lang, Alson Lee, JoAnn Lee, Lenora Lee, Aimee Liu, Jean Liu, Sophia Ma, Sophia Noda, Suiso Ogawa, Zhenzhen Qi, Francis Wong, Michele Wong, Ronald Wong, Jared Young, Alicia Yu


*LIGHT soundtrack recordings by
Francis Wong saxophones, flute
Tatsu Aoki bass, taiko
Jonathan Chen violin, electronics
Min Xiao Fen pipa, vocals

*Opening, Arrival, Bessie’s Song, In the Classroom, Walking to the Opera, Escape, Crossing, In the Park, Grove

ESL from Reduction Live recording featuring Kioto Aoki, Tatsu Aoki, Megan Lee, Melody Takata, Edward Wilkerson

Kitchen & Wine Cellar from CD recording AIR 091 Miyumi Project Live 2015 featuring Kioto Aoki, Tatsu Aoki, Mwata Bowden, Coco Elysses, Jamie Kempkers, Avreeayl Ra, Edward Wilkerson

No Need to be Sad from CD recording AIR 089 Needs Are Met featuring Ari Brown and Francis Wong

Touch of Sand from CD recording AIR 088 Pages featuring Kioto Aoki, Melody Takata

All the above recordings are courtesy of Asian Improv Records.

Killing the Green Lion vignette music recorded for the LIGHT soundtrack, featuring Corey Chan, Mike Kilo, MaryEllen Kirkpatrick, Melvina Lee, courtesy of Kei Lun Martial Arts

Poetry & Voiceover – Genny Lim

Sound Engineers – Adam Diller, Karen Stackpole, Caleb Wilitz
Color Correction & Sound Design – Joel Wanek
Lighting – Mary McFadden (Killing the Green Lion vignette)
Costumes – Lenora and JoAnn Lee
Sculpture – “Dialog” by Roland Mayer at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program
Production Assistance – Libby Jones, Gerard Veronica Sese, Kenjo Hatta-Wong
Graphic Design – Olivia Ting
Photos – Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang, Heath Orchard

Our deepest appreciation to Bessie M. Lee’s grandson, Larry Lee, for sharing so much of his family’s story, and to Larry Lee and Asian Women United of Minnesota for their generous support of this project.

Very special thanks to:

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University
Asia Society
Asian Improv aRts
Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center
Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach
Asian Women Giving Circle
Asian Women’s Shelter
Asian Women United of Minnesota
California Arts Council
California Lawyers for the Arts
Career, Mobility, Partnership (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project, Inc.)
Chinese Historical Society of America
CREDO Mobile
Dance Mission Theater
DAE Advertising
de Young Museum
Djerassi Resident Artists Program
Donaldina Cameron House
Franklin Templeton
Generous Individuals
Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund
New York Asian Women’s Center
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Puffin Foundation
San Francisco Arts Commission
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
True Light Lutheran Church
UTAP Printing & Packaging
Zellerbach Family Foundation

Copyright 2017 Lenora Lee Productions, LLC

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