Forbidden City and the Fight to Reframe Our Roles
June 12, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
20 Jay Street, Suite 740
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
- (212) 941-9208
Join us for a screening of the documentary Forbidden City, USA followed by a discussion on changing the narrative around Asian Americans in the performing arts with dancers and choreographers Young Soon Kim, Jessie Obremski, and Georgina Pazcoguin, moderated by Elena Chang.
In 1989, award-winning filmmaker Arthur Dong released the documentary, Forbidden City, USA, about the pioneering performers and Chinatown nightclubs from the mid-1930s to 1970. In the 1930s and ‘40s, audiences flocked to glamorous and exotic clubs to be entertained by Asian American performers who fought against exploitation and racism, as well as condemnation from their own communities, to pursue their dreams.
Charlie Low’s renowned San Francisco night club, Forbidden City, takes center stage in this documentary featuring footage of and interviews with original performers. Jadin Wong, for whom A4’s Emerging Asian American Dancer/Choreographer award is named, was the club’s first headliner. A successful Chinese American actress, dancer, and comedienne, Jadin was too familiar and dissatisfied with the lack of Asian American talent being cast in significant roles in theater, film, and television. In 1970, she opened Jadin Wong Management, which became the predominant talent agency for Asian Americans.
In the mid-1980s, Jadin spearheaded the first non-traditional casting symposium at the Shubert Theater, which opened Broadway to Asian American talent in a new light. Unfortunately, many of the same prejudices and barriers that she fought against stubbornly persist today. Following the screening of Forbidden City, USA, panelists Young Soon Kim (founder of White Wave Dance Company and the Dumbo Dance Festival), Jadin Wong Award winner Jesse Obremski (choreographer and founder of Obremski/Works), Georgina Pazcoguin (ABT principal and co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface), and moderator Elena Chang (director of director of equity, diversity, and inclusion at Theatre Communications Group) will discuss some of the positive changes happening in the dance and performing arts field as well as issues that Asian American performers still contend with and what we can do, in the spirit of Jadin Wong, to effect the change we want to see.
Young Soon Kim is an internationally acclaimed choreographer and founder of the WHITE WAVE Young Soon Kim Dance Company. She began her career as a performer appearing at major festivals across the globe and has collaborated with distinguished musicians and dance companies. She was invited to the United States in 1977 by the Martha Graham School and established her own company eleven years later. She and her work have been the subject of documentary films including Arirang: The Korean American Journey, which aired nationwide on PBS. She produces and curates three annual dance festivals: DUMBO Dance Festival, SoloDuo Dance Festival, and CoolNY Dance Festival. She is a member of the Bessie Awards Presenter League Committee and serves as a juror for nonprofit arts councils.
Jesse Obremski is the founder and artistic director of Obremski/Works, a contemporary dance ensemble based in New York City. He started training at The Ailey School and later graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. In 2016, Jesse graduated from The Juilliard School, under the direction of Lawrence Rhodes, where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Jesse is an Eagle Scout Rank recipient, a Father Fame Awardee, the recipient of the 2016 Jadin Wong Award administered by the Asian American Arts Alliance, a “Dancer to Watch” by Interview En L’air (2017), and Dance Magazine‘s Dancer “On the Rise” (March 2019). His choreography has been presented at the Harlem Arts Festival, Choreographers’ Collective, Dixon Place, Battery Dance Festival, Ailey CitiGroup Theater, DUMBO Dance Festival, and commissioned by Sacred Heart University, Brigham Young University, University of Wyoming, Diversity of Dance, and Fort Hamilton Joffrey Academy, among others. Jesse is currently performing with the Limón Dance Company, Gibney Dance Company, and White Wave, and is a Board Member of Diversity of Dance Inc.
Georgina Pazcoguin is a soloist with the New York City Ballet. Celebrating an 18-year career with world renown New York City Ballet, she aims to be named the company’s first female Asian American Principal dancer. A steadily rising star, she is an ambassador of her art form across the platforms of ballet, Broadway, and film. Known as the “The Rogue Ballerina,” she empowers those not fitting the “balletic ideal stereotype” with her story of success and rise to soloist. In addition to her many credits including the award-winning film New York Export Opus Jazz, Ivy in the revival of On the Town, and originating the role of Victoria in the 2016 revival of Cats, Georgina is a passionate activist for foundations Orphan Starfish, Arteamor, and the Hidden Tears Project using ballet as a universal language tool raising awareness and impacting social change. She is also a co-founder of the Final Bow for Yellowface campaign to combat Asian stereotypes in ballet productions such as The Nutcracker.
Forbidden City, USA is a film by Arthur Dong, an Oscar®-nominated and triple Sundance award-winning filmmaker, author, and curator whose work centers on Asian American and LGBTQ stories. Part That’s Entertainmentand part PBS, Forbidden City, USA captures a little-known chapter of entertainment history and takes it center stage. Looking beyond the cartoon characters of Broadway, Dong’s film showcases a generation of Asian American pioneers who fought cultural barriers and racism to pursue their love of American song and dance. Original recordings and film performances are highlighted alongside real-life stories in this 55-minute, award-winning documentary.