Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company Executive Director Andy Chiang will be joined by Deborah Damast, Clinical Associate Professor and Program Director of NYU’s Dance Education Program, to discuss the work of Nai-Ni Chen and her relationship with one of her mentors, the modern dance icon Bertram Ross, as part of NYPL’s The Dance Historian is In on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 at 1pm ET online via Zoom and in-person at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Bruno Walter Auditorium, 111 Amsterdam Ave. between West 64th and 65th Streets. The event is free, but registration is required at

Bertram Ross taught at NYU and the nearby Mary Anthony Dance Studio on Broadway, where he met and taught Nai-Ni Chen. Nai-Ni Chen became one of his favorite students and, in his words, a formidable choreographer. To introduce Nai-Ni Chen to the dance world in 1989, Mary Anthony sponsored a concert with two commissioned dances from Bertram Ross (Entrances and Exits and Nocturne), and two dances from Nai-Ni Chen at the Nikolais/ Louis Choreolab. The talk will include viewing of this concert, entitled An Evening with Bertram Ross and Nai-Ni Chen.

Nai-Ni Chen, who passed away a year ago, has been presented the 2023 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. She has created a body of choreography that has been touring the United States for three decades and has been seen by millions of people.

During the discussion, Professor Damast and Andy Chiang will review the wonderful choreographic craft of Bertram Ross in these two works and how it might serve as exemplary choreographic lessons for future generations. The lecture will also include footage of Nai-Ni Chen’s later work Movable Figures, which follows ideas from Bertram Ross’s Entrances and Exits and expands on them in multiple directions.

Deborah Damast has been teaching in the NYU Dance Education program since 2002 and currently serves as Program Director and Artistic Advisor. She has taught modern dance technique, pedagogy, creative movement for children, production, and choreography, is the Artistic Director of Dance Concerts, Kaleidoscope Dancers and the study abroad program to Uganda.

She has participated in motion capture studies, Internet Arts Collaborations, and in spring of 2019 received a collaborative Faculty Challenge Grant to research data and dance literacy. In the spring of 2020 Deborah received a Steinhardt Diversity Innovation Grant to begin collaborative work with Dancing Earth. Deborah collaborates as a mentor, provider of professional development and writer with the Dance Education Laboratory, LREI, The Yard, and the NYC DOE DELTA leadership team. She has taught and directed programs at Peridance Center, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Harvey School, Dance in Education Fund, and has taught for New York City Ballet, the 92nd St. Y, Temple Habonim, Harkness Dance Center, Innovative Learning Centers, and others. She has created creative dance videos for children, Move N Groove Kids and teaches early childhood dance at LREI.

Deborah’s choreography has been shown in numerous venues in NYC including World Financial Center, Riverside Church, 92nd St. Y, 14th Street Y, Judson Church, Peridance, St. Marks Church, Context, RAPP Arts Center, Gowanus Arts Exchange, Cooper Union, Ailey Citigroup Theater, Skirball Theater, Frederick Loewe Theater, for NDEO and ADTA conferences, and for Peridance and Steffi Nossen youth companies and Marymount Manhattan BA Dance majors. Her choreography has been presented Nationally and Internationally in Europe, Asia, and Africa. She has taught and presented at conferences through National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) annually since 2004, New York State Dance Education Association (NYSDEA), CUNY, Graduate Center, ACDFA, NYU, Kyambogo Music Education Conference 2018 in Uganda. in 2019 Deborah was the Keynote Speaker and presenter at the Utah Dance Education Organization conference. She conducts professional development for the New York City Dept. of Education Office of Arts and Special Projects and DEL/92Y, and has written curriculum for New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor Education Department, Carnegie Hall, the Revised Blueprint for the Arts-Dance for the NYC DOE and continues to enjoy working with the Making It Team of the Yard in Martha’s Vineyard on Education Initiatives and Community Engagement. Deborah serves on the Board of Directors of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and the Dance Education in Practice Journal Editorial Board, has served on the Boards of NDEO and NYSDEA, the latter where she served as President. She was a founding member of the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) Committee for NDEO and has organized conferences, workshops and symposiums at NYU with partner organizations. Deborah was a 2008 recipient of the GSO Star Faculty Award at NYU, the 2010 Outstanding Educator Award from the National Dance Education Organization, the 2017 NYU Steinhardt Excellence in Teaching award, a 2020 Dance Teacher Magazine Award and the 2023 Martha Hill Mid-Career award. She enjoys teaching across the lifespan, choreographing, and her research interests are community engagement, academic service learning, and early childhood. She is pursuing an Ed.D. degree in Dance Education part time at Columbia Teachers College. In 2022 for the NYU Dance Education Program’s 90th anniversary concert, Deborah invited the Nai-Ni Chen company to perform at the Frederick Loewe theater to honor the memory of Nai-Ni.

About Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company:

“Chen’s phrases, part exoskeletal rigidity, part boneless grace, embodied an epic dignity.” – Village Voice

Choreographer/Dancer Nai-Ni Chen (1958-2021) was a unique artist whose work crosses many cultural boundaries. Each of her dances reflect her personal vision as an immigrant and an American female artist with deep roots in the Asian culture. From this very personal perspective, she created new works that reflect current issues with global influences. Some of her works were developed in collaboration with renowned artists such as the Ahn Trio, Glen Velez, Joan La Barbara, Jason Kao Hwang, Tao Chen, Tan Dun and the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York.

Bridging the grace of Asian elegance and American dynamism, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is a premier provider of innovative cultural experiences that reflect the inspiring hope and energy of the immigrant’s journey. The company’s ground-breaking works have focused on themes from ancient legends that reflect issues of the present time to purely abstract, contemporary dances influenced by a mix of cultures Nai-Ni Chen experienced in New York. An Asian American company that celebrates cross-cultural experience, the Company’s productions naturally bring forth issues of identity, authenticity, and equality.

The Company has presented at some of the most prestigious concert halls such as the Joyce Theater, Lincoln Center in New York, and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Florida. The Company appears annually at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Queens College, the College of Staten Island and on Ellis Island. Internationally, the Company has presented at international festivals including Open Look Festival in Russia, the Silesian International Contemporary Dance Festival, the Konfrontations International Festival in Poland, the Chang Mu International Dance Festival in Korea, the Meet in Beijing International Arts Festival in China, and the Tamaulipas International Arts Festival in Mexico.

The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company has received more than 20 awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and numerous Citations of Excellence and grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Advancing Dance Education, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is currently in residence in New Jersey City University pioneering a program with the University’s A Harry Moore Laboratory School teaching dance to urban children with disabilities. For additional Company information, visit their website,; write to Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, P.O. Box 1121, Fort Lee, NJ 07024; or call (800) 650- 0246.

Programs of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company are made possible by the generous support of our Board members, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF), the New Jersey Cultural Trust, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, The New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund administered by the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, E.J. Grassman Trust, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, New Music USA, the Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund, the Rapid Response Program of American Dance Abroad, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Cultural Exchange Fund, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, PSEG, Proskauer, WAC Lighting, and the Glow Foundation and the Dragon and Phoenix Foundation.

The NYU Dance Education program provides numerous Masters Degrees in Teaching Dance. Established in 1932 by legendary dance educator Martha Hill, The Program is one of the oldest and most prestigious in North America and students come from all over the world. The Program’s multiple Masters Degree tracks provide high quality professional development in the theory and practice of dance education for teachers, administrators, performing artists and research scholars. NYU Dance Education provides opportunities for student leadership, study abroad, community engagement, and performance and are committed to equity and justice in arts education for all. For more information please visit the Dance Education website at