Berkeley Dance Project 2023

Background image: Berkeley Dance Project 2023: Within These Walls
Image credit:
Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Within These Walls

By Lenora Lee Dance
February 23–26, 2023
Zellerbach Playhouse

Presented as part of A Year On Angel Island

Within These Walls is an award-winning multimedia experience that integrates contemporary dance with poetry, original music, and video projection. Inspired by the experiences of the estimated 170,000 Chinese immigrants who were processed—and often unjustly detained or interrogated—at the U.S. Immigration Station on Angel Island between 1910 to 1940, Within These Walls serves as a meditation on healing, resilience, and compassion.

Lenora Lee Dance premiered Within These Walls in 2017 as a site-specific performance at the Angel Island Immigration Station. The company received a Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Production from the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards Committee. TDPS is re-staging the work with a cast of 14 students for Berkeley Dance Project, the department's annual dance concert.

Audience Responses to Within These Walls

"With each sweeping movement and shout of Cantonese, I felt the simultaneous rise and fall of tension. Sharp motions of struggle contrasted with gestures of reassurance as the Chinese immigrants faced individual hardships with the immigration system and found community and solace in one another." — Flora Huyn

"What a powerful performance! ... I felt not only the suffering and strength of the detainees, but the very difficult position of the interpreters. The language of their arms and hands doing the translating was so poignant. The medical examinations were harrowing. And the portrayal of the interrogator and doctor was chilling because they were not monsters but cool cogs in a monstrous bureaucracy.

Everything about the production ... came together to tell a story that was very specific and yet universal."

"I thought about ICE jails, people who fear deportation, and refugees overseas. It was heavy... and so beautiful." *

"It was a truly unique and powerful experience, and I feel fortunate to have witnessed it. It snuck into my dreams last night." *
"Moving and beautifully rendered, and of course, so timely given the global dialogue around immigration. I was there with my seven year old son, and the piece made a big impression on him." *

* Responses from attendees of the 2017 premiere at the Angel Island Immigration Station.

A Year on Angel Island

This production is part of A Year on Angel Island: Immigration Histories and Futures, a series of music and dance performances, exhibitions, public conversations, and courses presented by Future Histories Lab and Berkeley Arts + Design. The series uses Angel Island’s historic immigration station as a jumping-off point for discussion about race in America, global migration, and architectures of incarceration.

Learn more about A Year on Angel Island and see the full list of programs

Read a Berkeley News story about the series

Lenora Lee, Choreographer & Director

About the Artistic Director

Lenora Lee has been a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. She has been an Artist Fellow at the de Young Museum, a Djerassi Resident Artist, a Visiting Scholar at New York University through the Asian/Pacific/American Institute, and an Artist in Residence at Dance Mission Theater. She was a 2019 United States Artists Fellow and has been recently awarded a Creative Work Fund, a California Arts Council California Creative Communities grant, and a Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces grant with the Chinatown Community Development Center to collaborate on an immersive performance piece And the Community Will Rise in 2020.