Interdisciplinary dance works giving artistic voice to Asian Americans

Artistic Work

Recent world premieres of works by Lenora Lee Dance include Passages: For Lee Ping To (2010), Reflections (2011), The Escape (2012), and Rescued Memories: New York Stories (2013), The Detached (2014), Fire of Freedom (2015), Double Victory (2016), The Eye of Compassion (2016)  featuring media design by Olivia Ting, music by Francis Wong, text by Genny Lim, lighting by Patty-Ann Farrell, and videography directed by Tatsu Aoki (The Escape, Rescued Memories, The Detached, Fire of Freedom), filmed by Zhuoyun Chen, Joshua Chuck, Ben Estabrook, Eric Koziol, Heath Orchard, Joel Wanek, edited by Olivia Ting and Tatsu Aoki. Both Passages and Reflections were nominated for Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Design.

Passages, which premiered September 24-26, 2010 at Dance Mission Theater,tells the story of Lee’s grandmother’s experience immigrating through Angel Island during the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act utilizing historical documents as source material including the transcripts of Lee Ping To’s interrogations during her incarceration on the island. Passages was commissioned as a part of the community Centennial commemoration of the opening of Angel Island, which served as a detention center for Chinese and other immigrants seeking entry to the US.

Reflections, which premiered September 8-11, 2011 at CounterPULSE, was developed with the support of Asian Improv aRts, API Cultural Center (APICC), Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, Chinatown organizations Chinese Historical Society of America Museum (CHSA), and Cameron House, and the CounterPULSE Artist Residency Commissioning Program. Reflections explores the experiences of 3 generations of men in in their search for a sense of place in American society. It addresses the struggle for dominance and survival, the pursuit of wisdom, the relationship between yin (soft) and yang (hard), and ultimately the quest for peace. This work was a first time collaboration between LLD, Kei Lun Martial Arts, and Enshin Karate, San Mateo Dojo featuring martial arts and Chinese lion dance forms.

The Escape and Rescued Memories: New York Stories are interdisciplinary companion performance pieces inspired by stories of women who had become vulnerable upon arrival into the U.S. during the early 20th Century. The Escape is inspired by a girl who sought refuge from exploitation in San Francisco at Donaldina Cameron House, a faith-based social service agency that today continues to serve Asian communities living in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Rescued Memories: New York Stories retraces the life of Bessie M. Lee (–b. 1894), who, after migrating to New York City, spent two years in indentured servitude working for a wealthy Chinese family.

The pieces seek to shed light on the experiences of these women in the context of the social history of the period for the Chinese in America as well as for women in the society as a whole with the struggles and achievements of the 20th Century Women’s Movement, which took on such issues as child labor and human trafficking. Throughout the year of 2013, Lenora Lee and an ensemble of artists developed these two new pieces, which were presented during her year long fellowship at the de Young Museum.

The Detached (2014) premiered September 26 – October 5, 2014 at Dance Mission Theater as part of LLD’s 7th Anniversary Season! It is built on the research started for The Escape (2013) and Rescued Memories: New York Stories (2013) and integrates dance, multimedia projection, text, music and installation. Audiences travel throughout the studios and theater to witness the piece unfold in an immersive performance journey. The piece features video projection that was filmed in the East Garrison hospital on Angel Island. This hospital was used as a US military processing station from 1900 to 1941 and was turned into a processing facility for prisoners of war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was also a major point of embarkation for US troops headed toward the Pacific war zone.

Fire of Freedom (2015), Commissioned by Fort Mason Presents, is a multimedia immersive dance performance work based on the experiences of veterans, and examines the violence of war and its impacts on women, families, and military personnel. The piece was created and performed in Fort Mason’s General’s Residence.

Double Victory (2016), an intercultural, colorful, and vibrant performing arts tribute to the contributions of Asian American communities to victory over both fascism and racism in World War II, in celebration of the National Park Service’s Centennial anniversary. With support from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, San Francisco Arts Commission, California Arts Council, Zellerbach Family Foundation, and the Wildflowers Institute.

The Eye of Compassion (2016), a new multimedia immersive dance experience by Lenora Lee Dance, supported by San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Portsmouth Plaza Parking Corporation, Fleishhacker Foundation.

Within These Walls (2017) is a new multimedia immersive dance experience celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary season. Inspired by experiences of those detained and processed on the Angel Island Immigration Station, Within These Walls will transform and animate these historic spaces into sites for remembrance, as part of a community-wide commemoration of the 135th Anniversary of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, speaking to the power of individuals and communities to transcend.

2017 Touring Repertoire

Presented as several pieces in an evening-length program or as selected works

Within These Walls – a 60-min piece with projection (cast of 6 – 12)
The Eye of Compassion – a 65-min piece with projection (cast of 6)
Double Victory – a 30-min piece (cast of 4 – 6)
Fire of Freedom – a 65-min piece with projection (cast of 6 – 10)
The Detached – a 14-min piece with projection (cast of 4 – 6)
Rescued Memories: New York Stories – a 30-min piece with projection (cast of 8 – 9)
The Escape – a 30-min piece with projection (cast of 8 – 10)
Reflections – a 30-min piece with projection (cast of 8)
Passages – a 12-minute solo or duet with projection (cast of 1 – 2)

Presentations / Lectures
Performing Art in the Digital Age – 1 to 1.5 hour sessions
The Making of… (any performance piece and/or film of choice) – 1 to 1.5 hour sessions

Master Classes / Workshops
Stories in Motion: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Composition – 1.5 to 3 hour sessions

Film Screenings
Light – a 57-min dance film (2017)
The Detached – a 13-min dance film (2014)
The Escape – a 28-min dance film (2013)
Reflections – a 7-min dance film (2012)

Museum & Gallery Installations
New works by commission

Site-Specific Performance and or Installation
Within These Walls
The Eye of Compassion
Double Victory
Fire of Freedom
The Detached
Rescued Memories: New York Stories
New works by commission


c/o Asian Improv aRts, 44 Montgomery St., #2310, SF, CA 94104

Lynn Huang in Fire of Freedom, photo by Robbie Sweeny