Lenora Lee

Lynn Huang, photo by Robbie Sweeny

Shift The Script
with Lenora Lee

Shift the Script is a series that calls on Asian American and Pacific Islander artists in the San Francisco Bay Area to share how their art practice is honoring the needs of a changing world. 

This interview features Lenora Lee, a Chinese American dancer, choreographer, and Artistic Director of Lenora Lee Dance. Lenora is an alumna of APICC’s United States of Asian America Festival where she presented works in 2013, Celebrating 25 Years of Asian Improv ARTS!, and again in 2014 for Lenora Lee Dance's 7th Season. 

Her upcoming 15th Anniversary shows take place Friday, February 2nd @ 8pm, Saturday, February 3rd @ 8pm, and Sunday, February 4 @ 2pm at Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco, CA. She is presenting two groundbreaking pieces of work that confront the realities of U.S. immigration policy and the work toward reform.

Visit: https://LenoraLeeDance15years.eventbrite.com for tickets

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Watch: "In Visibility" promotional video

APICC: Hi Lenora! Thank you for sharing your story with the APICC community and for your long-time collaboration. We want to start at the beginning of the story. Can you share when you began creating artwork and more about what you make?

Lenora Lee: I began creating choreography when I went to City College of San Francisco, finding movement as the truest first language through improvisation, dance composition, and modern dance during that critical period of development. At the same time, I began to study alto saxophone with composer Francis Wong, who encouraged me to find my voice through sound on the horn. I had the opportunity to perform some of my early dance compositions in the San Francisco Chinatown community at Donaldina Cameron House. I had grown up through their youth group and youth leadership programs which provided the foundation for my approach to creating collaborative performance experiences as a professional artist after I received my B.A. in Dance from UCLA.

I am currently celebrating 25 years as a professional in the arts, and 15 years of running a dance company, Lenora Lee Dance (LLD). For the last 15 years LLD has pushed the envelope of intimate and large-scale multimedia, immersive dance performance connecting various styles of movement/dance, film, text, research and music to culture, history, and human rights issues.

LLD’s works are set in both public and private spaces, inspired by individual stories as well as community strength. From the proscenium, to underwater, the company’s pieces are site-responsive and immersive calling audiences into deep engagement with the work and environment. Through partnerships locally and nationally, LLD’s work has grown to encompass the creation, presentation and screening of films, museum and gallery installations, civic engagement, and educational programming signifying the power of art as a movement for change.

APICC: What topics and issues are most present with you right now, and how is your creative work responding to them?

LL: For Lenora Lee Dance's 15th Anniversary Season we are premiering "In Visibility" and "Convergent Waves: EP". Both works utilize dance, narrative, video projection and archival images to impart the lived experiences of migrants, descendants, and justice workers as they push to change the policies that both historically and currently criminalize immigrants and separate families.

Our work integrates contemporary dance, film, music, and research and has gained increasing attention for its sustained pursuit of issues related to immigration, incarceration, global conflict, life-threatening illness, and its impacts, particularly on women and families.


APICC: How has creating this body of work changed you?

LL: I am deeply impacted and inspired by the many individuals and communities I’ve had the honor of working with and getting to know over the last 25 years. I am moved by the generosity and openness with which participants and collaborators have approached our creative processes, and am always wanting to share of the experiences with love and compassion. This platform of immersive performance allows us as dance artists to connect with viewers through movement, energy and visceral dialogue - creating direct pathways to transformation and coming into harmony with one another, our pasts, our truths, and our beliefs.

APICC: What call to action do you hope your artwork inspires?

LL: We are having to make public statements for equity, justice, support for the arts and our work in underserved populations, not only in creating experiences for our individual and communal health, but our survival, to have our voices count, to fight against violence and discrimination, and to have a seat at the table.

Our projects make a collective statement around preservation and expanded resources for communities of color across the country and internationally.

"We, as a nation of all people must move forward embracing our country’s and the global diversity, knowing there is broader power and vision to collaborate across communities and countries to support one another, and that our fight for justice is not mutually exclusive to justice for only some communities, but part of the whole."

- Lenora Lee

APICC: Where can people experience your work next? 

LL: Lenora Lee Dance is celebrating its 15th Anniversary February 2-4, 2024 at Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco, with two performance works confronting the realities of U.S. immigration policy and the work toward reform.

Performances are on Friday, February 2 at 8pm, Saturday, February 3 at 8pm & Sunday February 4 at 2pm

Visit https://LenoraLeeDance15years.eventbrite.com for tickets

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Lenora’s work and longstanding collaborations with artists over the years has made a remarkable contribution to the Bay Area arts community. It is our vision at the Asian Pacific Island Cultural Center to continue co-presenting and elevating the dynamic work of Lenora and the wide community of artists that have have participated in our United States of Asian America Festival since 1999. 

Stay tuned to other upcoming events from Lenora Lee Dance: 

  • “At the Heart of Capon Barrio Chino: Tusán Perspectives” (Spring 2024) dance documentary film screenings made possible Good Medicine Productions
  • “Convergent Waves: NYC” (May 25-27, 2024) an immersive site-responsive performance premiering on South Street Seaport Museum’s 1885 Tall Ship Wavertree (NYC), inspired by history of the international cargo ship, and the seaport as an neighborhood of international trade.
  • “A Bridge to Now” a multimedia dance piece premiering in Lima, Peru (September 2024), and in San Francisco (April 2025), focusing on migration from Asia to North and South America, and the impact of migrant communities in the Americas.

Visit http://www.lenoraleedance.com/ for more information



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