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 standard Chinese and modern influences in performances all over the United States as perfectly as abroad for three many years, died on Sunday in a swimming incident when vacationing in Hawaii. She was 62.

The incident happened off Kailua Seaside in Oahu. Her husband and spouse in the corporation, Andrew N. Chiang, in a posting on the company’s Facebook webpage, reported that Ms. Chen went for a swim in the ocean and that her entire body was discovered by a passer-by.

Ms. Chen was born in Taiwan and came to the United States in 1982, arranging to gain a master’s degree at New York University (which she at some point did) and then return to her dwelling country to train. But the arts scene in New York proved irresistible.

“I was so psyched about the dancing in New York that I determined to stay somewhat than instruct in Taiwan,” she told The TimesLedger of Queens in 2017.

6 yrs later, she and Mr. Chiang started off the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Enterprise, which started performing in and close to New York from its headquarters in Fort Lee, N.J. By the early 1990s, its touring circle experienced started expanding, first to Massachusetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and then across the nation and over and above.

Ms. Chen experienced been properly trained in the common dances of Taiwan and China right before settling in the United States, and her plans tended to give viewers members — numerous of whom, specially in the early yrs, were utilized to European-design and style dance — a diverse look at of the artwork sort.

“I like to integrate each aesthetics, Jap and Western,” she instructed The Los Angeles Instances in 1994. “My dancers and I experiment just about every day. I imagine that if I let motion appear out naturally from my body, if I discuss the truth of the matter from my coronary heart, it will categorical my history — traditional Chinese motion and a Western dance vocabulary.”

The company carried out common admirer dances and ribbon dances, but also Ms. Chen’s own works, which drew on quite a few influences. Her “Movable Figures,” for illustration, was encouraged by Southeast Asian shadow puppetry. “Dragons on the Wall (Tianji)” implies Chinese calligraphy. “Raindrops” evokes her girlhood in Taiwan.

“I remember as a child I would sit in my grandmother’s area and see the raindrops slipping on the floor,” she informed The File of Bergen County, N.J., in 2003, when the work was on her application at the New Jersey Doing Arts Middle in Newark, a recurrent end for the troupe. “It designed this kind of an attention-grabbing sound — dut-dut-dut. It was incredibly playful to me. Mysterious. It introduced me question.”

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

“My moms and dads generally took us out to get near to mother nature, the ocean, the beach and the mountains,” she instructed The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1996, when her business performed in Fayetteville.

“Many of my dances are motivated by character,” she included. “That’s the Chinese way and philosophy: to emphasize the relation in between human and character. We try to obtain a harmony there.”

Greta Campo, a dancer and the company’s affiliate artistic director, knowledgeable firsthand how Ms. Chen blended the numerous influences in her existence and education.

“Her cultural qualifications was often an inspiration for her,” she explained by e-mail. “Nai-Ni Chen’s is effective are so distinctive simply because they fused the independence of American modern-day dance with the grace and splendor of Asian artwork.”

Ms. Chen was uncovered to American society expanding up in Taiwan, studying English as a 2nd language and, as she instructed The Record in 1988, observing the motion pictures of “those two gentlemen — the excess fat one particular and the slim one particular who were being usually obtaining in issues.” That is, Laurel and Hardy.

She started taking dance lessons at 4 and learned ballet and people dance before enrolling, in her early teens, at the Chinese Society College in Taipei, whose curriculum provided modern day dance, jazz and Chinese martial arts.

She used three yrs with the Cloud Gate Dance Theater, Taipei’s 1st contemporary dance company, and participated in several authorities-sponsored international excursions. Mr. Chiang, who is Nai-Ni Chen Dance’s govt director, advised The Star-Ledger in 1999 that he first satisfied his long run spouse in 1978, when she was amongst a team of checking out dancers who done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technological innovation he was enrolled there and was the university student pursuits coordinator.

“At that first moment, I realized she was heading to be my spouse,” he advised the newspaper, though Ms. Chen mentioned she only vaguely remembered their preliminary backstage face. The two stayed in contact, and they married in 1982. Their daughter, Sylvia, also survives her.

Ms. Chen’s dance corporation often carried out at faculties, wherever in the early yrs college students typically had minimal publicity to Chinese arts.

“The young ones just adore it,” she informed The Document in 1992. “Chinese dance is quite vibrant, and it is absolutely new to them.”

She was notably involved with placing across the influence of Asian tradition and Asian American immigrants on Western traditions. Nevertheless it was a issue of pleasure to her that her troupe was multiracial and multinational. Obtaining dancers who could manage the requires of mixing the traditional and contemporary was, she acknowledged, complicated, but she considered the effort and hard work was worthwhile.

“I feel positive since in the conclude, the concept we are striving to express to individuals has all the things to do with sharing cultures in this scaled-down and scaled-down modern day earth,” she instructed The Star-Ledger in 1996. “People are interested, but there is even now a extensive way to go. It will take a selected kind of maturity to uncover some thing superior in a further, absolutely distinct and very international society.”