Interdisciplinary dance works giving artistic voice to Asian Americans

Words of Gratitude

Chloe Luo & Johnny Nguyen photo by KateFim


Dear Community, Friends, 

We wish you many blessings, good health, and prosperity as we close the year. 2020 has been one of the most challenging times in our existence. We, however, remained deeply committed to advance our art as a creative and social practice, engaging in complex problem solving, community building, collaborative participation, providing inspiration for next generations – a voice for the underrepresented, a powerful vehicle for diverse, connected perspectives. It is our time to rise, and we are. 
We endured many changes due to the pandemic, which include:
  • Letting go of our 945 ArtSpace, a Chinatown storefront space under the auspices of Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), which was a project of Asian Improv aRts SF in collaboration with Lenora Lee Dance (LLD), API Cultural Center, and CCDC. 
  • All five of LLD’s 2020 projects were postponed due to the catastrophic effects of the pandemic on our artists, collaborators, and organization. We postponed large group rehearsals due to city regulations and health risks facing our 11 dancers. 
  • The pandemic hit LLD artists and administrators extremely hard, with the loss of some or all performing art, arts education, and non-art related jobs. We feel the devastating effects: loss of work, uncertainty about artistic livelihoods and health, being forced to reinvent ways to survive, and moving multiple times or away from the Bay Area temporarily. Much of LLD’s grant income is project-related, earmarked for when the projects start up again.



Hien Huynh & Johnny Nguyen photo by KateFim


Going forward into our 13th Season

LLD continues to work with CCDC on And the Community Will Rise, supported by Creative Work Fund, California Arts Council, Rainin, Zellerbach and Fleishhacker Foundations. It focuses on stories of advocacy and the fight for tenants’ rights by current and former residents of Ping Yuen housing complex and staff of CCDC. We are also being commissioned to create Convergent Waves for Pao Arts Center in Boston, with additional support from National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts, and ArtsEmerson. It celebrates the contributions of activists and non-profit leaders in the fight for affordable housing, eliciting stories of community agency, resilience and transformation. For both, we are in the midst of research, interview and sound score editing, and are considering film versions or outdoor performances of these projects in 2021 / 2022. We will also continue editing the Within These Walls film by filmmaker Tatsu Aoki, inspired by those detained at the U.S. Immigration Station on Angel Island.
Gama Hsu photo by Robbie Sweeny


Your support is critical during this time of survival 

We strive to inspire people to engage, to risk, to be touched by the generosity of others, with a fearlessness in knowing artists hold a key to building bridges and creating the foundation for transformation and transcendence. Contemporary segregation exists along color, class, geographic, economic, and material lines. We have to become part of decision-making teams to determine sustainable solutions and build paths to freedom via equality. We need to unobstruct the divide, the fear of indifference, and the resistance to change with risk-taking vulnerability. It is appreciation of diversity, and power in uplifting voices of collaboration into leadership roles that will bring facets of American society together, allow us to dissolve barriers of discrimination & control, and bear witness to our collective abilities to grow, unify, and transform. 
We deeply appreciate your generosity and invite you to make a contribution today! 
Your gift will directly support the above programs in addition to LLD’s upcoming virtual online programming featuring films, performances, interviews and discussions with collaborating artists, designers and filmmakers. With the intensity of this year, and the myriad of adjustments we’ve all had to make in our lives, we are ever so grateful for your continued support. 
Wishing you grace and love,
                                                                         Lenora Lee                  Hien Huynh              Lucy Tafler

                                                                  Artistic Director      Marketing & Outreach     Project Consultant


Derek Harris & Lynn Huang photo by Hoa Huynh





In Community

SanSan Kwan & Johnny Nguyen. Photo by Robbie Sweeny
Dearest friends and community,
As the unrest continues across the country in the face of a pandemic, we are being called to stand in solidarity with the movements speaking truth to power and calling for justice for our Black brothers, sisters, and siblings. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Stephon Clark. Tony McDade. And the other countless lives taken by the systemic violence against Black bodies.
Our company illuminates narratives through movement to envision a more compassionate, empathetic, and just world for all. With this, we recognize our role in working towards anti-racism in support of Black Liberation because Black Liberation IS collective liberation
Our work has been inspired by Asian Improv aRts and Asian Improv Arts Midwest building on the legacies, histories, struggles, and triumphs of Asian Americans in this country, which in part are connected with those of Black Americans. Civil Rights. Black Power. Black Arts. Yellow Power. The Third World Liberation Front. We are being called to remember these histories and embody them in the present moment. 
We are inviting you to join us in taking a stand to listen to, support, and amplify Black voices, to donate or contribute other resources to Black-led organizations working for change, and in undoing Anti-Blackness within our own communities. In the face of so much, we are being asked to not turn the other way from the grave injustice, discrimination, violence, and killing that has been perpetrated on Black people in this country for over 400 years and to recognize that what is happening right now is a reaction to the systems of oppression that have been held in place. 

This is an extraordinary time and no matter how challenging and daunting it may feel at times, this is an opportunity to find the deeper parts of ourselves; to allow our actions to be driven by love, courage, hope, truth, grace, honesty, and clarity; to take care of one another; and to re-evaluate what is truly important. Knowing in our hearts the importance of expressing love and solidarity to all who are suffering, we are committed to doing this work and hope that you as our beloved community can join us in this fight for justice.

This is a time to stand in community, in support of one another, and we are standing in solidarity.
In gratitude and love,
Lenora Lee, Johnny Nguyen, Lucy Tafler, and Hien Huynh 
Recognizing the bonds, collaboration, and dedication of 
James Newton and Jon Jang in South Africa
Tatsu Aoki and Fred Anderson
 Jon Jang,  Avotcja Jiltonilro, Francis Wong, Myron Cohen, Sascha Jacobsen, Sandy Poindexter. Photo by Bob Hsiang
Resources and information on how you can get involved:
Campaign Zero – a comprehensive platform of research-based policy solutions to end police brutality in America  


Support Victims’ Families 

Donate to Black-Led Organizations in Minneapolis

If you are able, please contribute to local Bay Area organizations

Bay Area Resources

Edward Wilkerson Jr., Francis Wong, William Roper, Tatsu Aoki, Mwata Bowden, Kioto Aoki, Melody Takata. Photo by Ken Carl
*Major gratitude to these local organizations Zaccho Dance Theatre, API Cultural CenterKularts, as these resource links were compiled in part from links they shared

Words of Gratitude from our Artists. Dancing Remotely

Our early research and creative process, remote individual rehearsals 
in our homes and nearby spaces during shelter in place, March 2020.
Dear Friends,
We hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe during this time of uncertainty and crisis.
We wanted to extend our appreciation to you,
  • update you on how LLD and our artists are being affected at this time,
  • offer an opportunity for you to participate,
  • share about what we’re creating
While we had to cancel and postpone all of our in-person events, rehearsals and performances, we are still continuing to gather remotely and rehearse individually to generate content for our current project “And the Community Will Rise” and to research the impact of public housing in San Francisco. 
Due to the uncertainty of when the pandemic will subside, economy start up again, and in the hopes of our work returning, we’ve felt it crucial to support the artists we are collaborating with regardless of how long the restrictions on public events will last. 
We’re being called to innovate, reinvent the way we see performing arts, and understand the power in collective voices that continue to engage people, reach new communities nationally, call for participation, and find creative means to share what we embody as artists and are going through as a society.
Today we are asking you to deepen your support of our artists and culture bearers, who provide hope, alternative perspective, and a compassionate lens on the challenges we face, endure, and triumph from everyday.
Your support enables our creative team to continue working during this period of survival.
“I have lost 75% of my income because of this pandemic.  My work as an artist is to make visible the invisible, to dance thoughts and images into fruition, to be a time machine, a medium, a mover of emotions, a gardener of energies, a storyteller and a light.  I hope to continue to shine my light on important issues through dance. Now more than ever the world needs us.” 
– Anna Greenberg
“It’s been two weeks of sheltering in place, and all in-person rehearsals, teaching gigs, events, and shows have been cancelled. Though there is much to be concerned about and I miss seeing my friends and family and I am worried about their well being-from a personal perspective, I have much to be grateful for. And I am grateful for Lenora Lee Dance, who keeps all collaborators connected and continues to find creative work opportunities to support us financially, emotionally, and artistically.” 
– Megan Lowe
“My whole sense of who I am as an artist, creator and collaborator has frozen mid-air. All of my artistic projects for 2020 have been postponed or cancelled-which has deeply challenged me to put my creativity towards imagining how I can still have an artistic practice in my home and in physical isolation. While most of my work as an administrator supporting other artists remains stable, I see my friends and peers completely at a loss – scrambling to adapt and learn how to make a living in this unprecedented time.”
 – Melissa Lewis 
“What COVID is teaching me is about the pivot as a choreography of resilience. I lost the majority of my income for the next four months, potentially further, a total of about $3000-4000 lost in a flash as if flood. This money directly would have covered rent, utilities, and food, simply put. However, my creative spirit has found some solace in dialogue, virtual collaboration and home videos. This is where the resilience lives, where seeds are planted again as spring returns.” 
– Gabriel Christian



Lenora Lee Dance (LLD), based in San Francisco, is seeking Boston based Asian/Asian American modern / contemporary dancers for “Convergent Waves” a series of 3 site-specific, immersive, multimedia performances in Boston at the Pao Arts Center, April 23 – 25, 2021. 


LLD is looking for dancers with experience in choreography, improvisation, and collaboration. Rehearsals will begin in Boston April or May 2020, occurring one week per month almost every month, for approximately 20 hours each time. Below is a tentative draft of the schedule. All rehearsal and performance time is paid.


Those interested can email your cell phone number, a resume, your website, and up to four video links of dance pieces you have choreographed or are featured dancing in by Sunday, 3/8/20. Call (‪415) 913-8725‬ for more information.


Potential Rehearsal & Performance Dates:


– 4/23 – 4/29/20 or 5/18 – 5/24/20

– 6/22 – 7/1/20 for a week

– 10/15 – 10/25 (with performance excerpts at Arts Emerson 10/24 or 10/25)

– 11/30 – 12/5/20 (with performances excerpts at Gardner Museum 12/3/20)

– one week per month January and February, dates TBD

– 3/26 – 4/2/21 (with performance excerpts at Gardner Museum 4/1/21)

– 4/16 – 4/25/21 (tech & 3 shows)



“Convergent Waves” is a site-responsive, immersive, multimedia experience premiering at Pao Arts Center (Pao) in Boston April 23 – 25, 2021, with potential touring May 2021-November 2022. LLD will transform Pao into an immersive site where the audience follows performers on an interactive journey, that will feature 6 dancers, multimedia design, recorded original music, research, and voiceover interviews with activists and residents. 


Audience are reoriented for a unique perspective that merges memory, contemporary reality, and social commentary. Walking through the building will be like walking through the interior of someone’s body with the idea of memory housed in the architectural blueprint of the building. 


Pao sits on a historically significant piece of land, Parcel 24, where hundreds of residents were displaced in the 1960s in order to build a highway on-ramp. The reclamation of this land by Pao represents a powerful call for community oriented development in the face of rapid change. The work, which celebrates the contributions of activists and non-profit leaders, will make a collective statement for the preservation of community as neighborhoods across the country inhabited for generations face displacement through gentrification. 


Supported in part by Pao Arts Center, Isabella Sewart Gardner Museum, National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts Expeditions Tour Planning Grant, Arts Emerson, and Generous Individuals


About the Company

For the last 13 years Lenora Lee Dance (LLD) has been pushing the envelope of intimate and large-scale multimedia dance performance that connects various styles of movement/dance, film, text, research and music to culture, history, and human rights issues. LLD creates works that are both set in public and private spaces, inspired by individual stories as well as community strength. At times crafted for the proscenium, or underwater, or in the air, and at times the pieces are site-responsive immersive and interactive. Its work has grown to encompass the creation, presentation and screening of films, museum and gallery installations, civic engagement, and educational programming. LLD is directed by San Francisco native Lenora Lee, who has been a dancer, choreographer and artistic director for the past 22. She has been an Artist Fellow at the de Young Museum, a Djerassi Resident Artist, a Visiting Scholar at New York University, an Artist in Residence at Dance Mission, and a 2019 United States Artists Fellow.


Photo: Lynn Huang by Robbie Sweeny

INAUGURAL CONCERT: Vijay Iyer with Hafez Modirzadeh – 1/23/20

Asian Improv aRts, Lenora Lee Dance, and API Cultural Center are pleased to present:


Vijay Iyer (piano) with Hafez Modirzadeh (saxophone)


Thursday, January 23, 2020
7:30 pm – 8:45 pm
At 945 ArtSpace

945 Clay St., San Francisco, CA 94108

$25 adv./ $35 at the door

Doors open at 7pm. VERY LIMITED SEATING


If driving, the Portsmouth Square Parking Garage is recommended, with entrance on Kearny at Clay

This is the INAUGURAL CONCERT for 945 ArtSpace, a project of Asian Improv aRts, Lenora Lee Dance, API Cultural Center, and the Chinatown Community Development Center. The purpose of 945 ArtSpace is to provide a dedicated venue for artists and cultural activists to work in the intimate setting of a community-based storefront.

Composer-pianist VIJAY IYER has carved out a unique path as an influential, prolific, shape-shifting presence in modern music. He was described by the New York Times as a “social conscience, multi-media collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinking, and multicultural gateway.” A winner of multiple awards including a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, he holds a lifetime appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University. Visit:

Composer-saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh is active in the realms of performing, teaching, recording, publishing, and presenting cross-cultural perspectives regarding musical culture, tradition, and innovation. He has been instrumental in the ImprovisAsians annual festival held at San Francisco State University for the past 15 years. He is a Professor of Music and advisor for Jazz and Creative/World Music Studies at San Francisco State University. visit:

Both Vijay and Hafez are valued contributors to Asian Improv’s work and legacy over the decades. 945 ArtSpace is extremely proud to present these extraordinary artists and community members as part of our first season here at 945 ArtSpace.

Top photo: Vijay Iyer, by Monica Jane Frisell

Bottom photo: Hafez Modirzadeh