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Chen, Si-Lan (1909–)

Chen, Si-Lan (1909–)

Chinese concert dancer. Name variations: Si Lan Chen; Si-lan Chen; Si-Lan Chen Leyda. Born 1909 in Trinidad, West Indies, of Chinese parents; father was secretary for Sun Yat-sen and foreign minister of the Canton government; m. Jay Leyda (1910–1988, film historian and scholar).

Pioneer in the use of Chinese elements in dance, moved to London (1912), where she studied at Stedman Academy; joined parents in China and worked under well-known actor Mei-Lan Fang; after Chiang Kai-shek took power, fled with family to Moscow (1927), where she studied at Very Maya's school; worked in plastique with Kasyan Goleizovsky, later becoming an important link between his experiments and American dance forms; studied folk dance in Moscow and gained expert knowledge of Uzbec and Turkistani traditions; immigrated to US where she associated with the New Dance League and began giving concert recitals; works of choreography include Landlord on a Horse (1938), Shanghai Sketches (1938), Two Chinese Women (1938), Chinese Student-Dedication (1938), In Conquered Nanking (1939), and Uzbec Dance (1939); appeared in the film Keys of the Kingdom (1944), among others.

See also memoirs edited by Sally Banes, Footnote to History (Princeton, 1984).

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