Collaboration Nation with de Young Artist Fellow Lenora Lee

De Young Artist Fellow Lenora Lee’s talents are unquestionable, but perhaps the key to her success is the incredible community that she’s built around herself. Her upcoming performance includes a long list of artistic collaborators: musicians, dancers, martial artists, a multimedia designer, a poet, filmmakers, and a lighting designer. Lee’s diverse collaborations create a variety of access points for audiences, and for Lee, those points of connection are of the most important part of each performance. Together Lee and her collaborators have created two new performances, The Escape and Rescued Memories: New York Stories, which will be performed at the de Young this November.

A group photo of Lenora Lee and her many collaborators on the streets of NYC

One of Lee’s longest collaborations has been with musician and composer Francis Wong, whose ensemble created the score for both performances. Both Lee and Wong draw upon the individuality of each performer, identifying each person’s talents and remaining open to new directions. Lee and Wong consider an individual’s opposing natures—light and dark, hard and soft—rather than his or her strengths or weaknesses. “It’s really important to get beyond that,” Wong says. “This is who you are and we should go with it… But be committed to it!”

A dancer on stage infront of a scrim onto which is projected Chinese characters

Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Wong’s performers come from disparate backgrounds. Kat Parra, for example, filters her heritage in Sephardic traditions through Afro-cuban and jazz music. Wong believes that, “To have people from different traditions representing our Chinese-American experience integrates our diverse and broad experiences as a society.”

A diverse trio of musicians playing horns

Photo by Adrian Arias

Music is just one component of this multifaceted work. Genny Lim—a poet, playwright, and performer with deep roots in San Francisco’s Chinatown—uses powerful writing to convey hidden internal struggles. Patty-Ann Farrell creates striking sets and enhances the mood of each scene through lighting design. Together, Tatsu Aoki and Olivia Ting use video to cultivate each piece’s visual narrative, evoking alternate realities and a sense of memory—all of which add layers and depth to the overall performance.

Two dancers move between flowing fabric in a blue tone

“I’m always blown away by what comes out of these collaborations, because there are so many voices and each person is so strong in his or her artistic discipline; and also they’re very humble and gracious people and that’s kind of like magic, or beauty, unfolding,” says Lee.

Dancers wrestle with a Chinese dragon with projected images on a scrim

Photo by Robbie Sweeny

The Escape and Rescued Memories: New York Stories will be presented at the de Young Museum on November 8 at 7 pm and November 9 at 8 pm. Tickets are on sale now.

Also on November 8, there will be a live performance by the Francis Wong Ensemble of music from the scores and a film screening of The Escape by Tatsu Aoki.