Lenora Lee Dance


SEP 8-11, 2011

Reflections image

Reflections is a new interdisciplinary work by Lenora Lee Dance in collaboration with Kei Lun Martial Arts & Enshin Karate, South San Francisco Dojo. It features media design by Olivia Ting, music by Francis Wong, videography by Ben Estabrook, and text by Genny Lim. The piece explores the experiences of creating community and a sense of place by succeeding generations in my family and community, beginning with my grandfather, who immigrated through Angel Island in 1922. In honoring my grandfather’s efforts to achieve dignity and self-realization in his time I also wish to address today’s challenges for Chinese men facing assimilationist pressures in our mainstream American culture. As such, this work is dedicated to three generations of men in the Lee family.

I am very excited about the opportunity to work with martial artists from Kei Lun Martial Arts and Enshin Karate, SSF Dojo in this next phase of storytelling. These artists bring a special perspective rooted in their ongoing practice that contributes to our community’s cultural integrity and provides insight into the relationship between movement and mind. The project also utilizes video projection to bring light to the intimacies of the martial arts forms and breath, making visible the dynamism and subtlety intrinsic to the forms. These forms will represent a symbolic language for struggle, identity, and a journey through emotional landscapes. In this way I hope that the piece will be a moving tribute to our forebears as well as a means toward healing in our communities during these complex times.

Reflectionsis presented through the CounterPULSE Artist Residency Commissioning Program, in partnership with Asian Improv aRts, API Cultural Center, Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, & Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.Asian Improv aRts logo APICC logo CHSA logoAngel Island logo



Lenora Lee Dance

Lenora Lee image

The mission of Lenora Lee Dance is to give artistic voice to the experiences of Asian Americans through interdisciplinary dance theater works.

Lenora Lee (artistic director, choreographer, dancer) is a native San Franciscan and has been creating and performing work since 1998.  For the last 13 years she has been an integral part of the San Francisco and New York Asian American contemporary dance and creative music communities, as choreographer, dancer, and Managing Director of Asian American Dance Performances, as dancer and taiko artist with Gen Taiko, as Artistic Director for Lenora Lee Dance, as artist-in-residence at CounterPULSE, the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California, the Chinatown Beacon Center, and in the SFUSD, and as Project Manager for Asian Improv aRts.  She has directed, choreographed, and produced her own works performing nationally and internationally.

Lenora’s projects have been sponsored by the Greater New York Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. (BAC), Mulberry Street Theater’s Ear to the Ground commissioning with generous support from the Jerome Foundation, CounterPULSE Artist Residency Commissioning Program, Lighting Artist in Dance Award, a program of Dancers’ Group, CA$H, a grants program administered by Theatre Bay Area in partnership with Dancers’ Group, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Performing Arts Assistance Program, Asian Improv aRts, Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Footloose Presents AIM: Artists in Motion, The Garage Resident Artist Workshop, and by Generous Individuals.


Lenora Lee's Blogs

Audience Reactions to FACT/SF and Lenora Lee Dance
Sep 16th, 2011


“Reflections” – Art, Visibility, and “This Movement”
Aug 20th, 2011

I am a dancer, choreographer, and the artistic director of Lenora Lee Dance. For the last few years I’ve been developing large scale interdisciplinary works that are deeply rooted in the stories of the Asian American experience, performed and supported by the artistic and cultural communities I’ve had the honor to be a part of here in San Francisco. What is manifesting is greater in depth, artistry, commitment, and beauty than anything I could have ever envisioned.

Growing up I always wondered what it would feel like to be part of a movement and to understand what moves people to participate, to risk of themselves, to become committed and involved. I see and hear about political movements, activist movements, human rights movements. In the shifting of my perspective throughout the process of making my newest work “Reflections,” I find myself turning around witnessing the artists I am working with, and realizing just how much of a movement I feel I am blessed to be a part of. Within the next few paragraphs, I hope to share with you with an entry into this movement manifested in a creative process and the path “Reflections” has taken me on in aligning the many facets of my life and my artistic work with the communities I belong to.

Premise for “Reflections”
My initial intrigue at the beginning of creating this piece was to figure out how we can tell the stories of our forefathers, mothers, and of the communities around us with a palette of dance, Chinese and Japanese martial arts, video, text and music. Since then, the palette has grown to include Chinese lion dance as an integral part of the work. Through this piece and my previous work “Passages” I try to bring to light challenges immigrants come upon in starting a life in the United States. With “Reflections” I also want to provide some perspective on issues young men can face in finding a sense of place in the American culture given socio-economic and ethnic differences and the fact that the traditions and values of family conflict with those of society.

The “Movement” of Martial Arts
In my study of martial arts and work with martial artists, what I’ve come to realize with awe and amazement is the inherent beauty of the forms and the deep respect each artist I witness has for each other as well as for the practice, tradition, discipline, and lineage of the art. Each movement is clear and distinct and has an application. Nothing is wasted or expended for no reason. There is no movement for movement’s sake. Thus the level of integration for those who have practiced intensely for years is so very high. The breath, the stance, the grounding, the harvesting of internal and external energy to generate a force and momentum so strong, it’s like an undercurrent that sweeps a person away in one strike.

Along with gaining an understanding of one’s pure potential manifested internally and externally through mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional strength and practice, is this abundant flow of generosity and gifts that are shared with one another as a community. There is a passion to go deeper in one’s practice of understanding the self, the self in relation to others, and the self amongst the environment. I see this as being visible and invisible at the same time, being in the foreground and background simultaneously. The practice is a spiritual way of life at its core and the connection between practitioners is intimately woven.

Art , Visibility and “This Movement”
I would like to share another angle on visibility and invisibility, being in the foreground and background. For Asian Americans there has been a lack of voice, visibility, and representation in this city of San Francisco that is over 33% Asian, and in the Bay Area which is close to 25% Asian. There is a great need to have our stories and our histories told by those who have lived them and witnessed them in our communities. They need to be told by us in a way that represents our truths and our visions and our artistry, uncensored and unedited by publishers, presenters, and curators.

With my last work “Passages: For Lee Ping To” I wanted to bring to the forefront and share the history and subsequent consequences of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which was the first American law passed to limit the immigration of a people from another country. It affected not only generations of Chinese immigrating between 1882 and 1965, but it also had great impact on the lives of the succeeding generations and the majority of Cantonese Chinese in the United States. Through community engagement activities that have involved Chinatown youth, seniors and college students (reaching 11 campuses in California and New York) I was able to share “Passages” with over 3,000 people from July 2010 through April 2011.

With “Reflections” I am excited to bring forth stories of three generations of men and their peers as they realize their identity and community as Chinese Americans. This is the first ever collaboration between Lenora Lee Dance, Kei Lun Martial Arts, and Enshin Karate, South San Francisco Dojo. I am so very blessed to have this opportunity to work with these master artists, along with media designer Olivia Ting, composer Francis Wong, poet Genny Lim, and videographer Ben Estabrook.

Through “Passages” and now with “Reflections” I am continuing key community-based collaborations with Asian Improv aRts, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, Cameron House, CounterPULSE, and White Wave Dance (New York). Also included in the touring season this fall are engagement activities at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, and the Museum of Chinese in America (New York).

This article was published in the September 2011 issue of In Dance, a monthly magazine published by Dancers’ Group, serving the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


Artist Interview: Lenora Lee
Aug 8th, 2011


Jul 28th, 2011

The beauty of the artists I’m working with never ceases to amaze me. When I witness them, I witness the uniqueness of each person’s spirit, each person’s love and passion for her or his art, each person’s gift of giving deeply to the birth of this piece. This creative endeavor is bringing to life the histories stored within our bodies. We convey through movement, martial arts, Chinese lion dance, music, text, and video the depth of what cannot be translated through words. With our stories we share what we and those who came before us have faced, been challenged by and have endured. We bring this forth with love and conviction and a fearlessness that confirms we are on the right path, deepening our journeys and our understanding of this experience we take part in. Each of our voices is distinct and as a community that is made up of many communities, I am so breathlessly awestruck and grateful for the opportunity to build with these artists a tapestry that is woven in the most glorious fashion, in the greatest respect for one another and for each other’s art forms.



The Magic
May 16th, 2011

There is an unmistakable magic that occurs when a group of 16 artists fill a room and reveal their craft.  4 people transform into 2 majestic lions… the spirits and essence of the tradition.  It’s hard to express the feeling of watching what is in your mind’s eye manifest in front of you, to the glory of your initial vision.  Presence, compassion, love, and wisdom.  You hear it.  You feel it.  You know what you are a part of is something of utter beauty that you
cannot touch.  But you’re breathing it.

You walk the walk and take the path, the journey is forever unfolding.  And you roll with it, listening with heightened awareness.

“Reflections” by Lenora Lee Dance

Photos by Tim Richards, 1) Yuki & the Lion, 2) & 3) Collin & Lenora