Emily Cheung, 2021 Finalist

Emily Cheung is recognized as one of the leaders in cross-cultural exchange and liaison with foreign artists practicing traditional and contemporary Chinese dance in Toronto. Cheung is involved in preserving Chinese culture and collaborating with artists from other disciplines and ethnic backgrounds to create works with unique aesthetic sensibilities.

Read on below to learn more about Muriel Sherrin Award finalist Emily Cheung.

Little Pear Garden Dance Company looks at both classical and contemporary chinese dance. How do both of these styles inform your work?

Classical Chinese dance informs the audiences about the past where it is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture. It is important to preserve its origin. Contemporary Chinese dance allows much more creativity where I can explore and create works that inform audiences about my identity as a Chinese Canadian artist. Both of these forms are crucial to my works and the development of Asian Performing Art in the Toronto dance milieu.

The name of your organization comes from Peking Opera’s tradition of nomenclature. How do you continue to incorporate operatic elements in your performances?

Peking Opera is an interdisciplinary arts composed of 5 elements: dance, mime, acrobatics, singing and acting. As a choreographer, I often use one or more of these elements to tell stories or express myself in performance. In keeping with tradition, the most important aspect to me is to produce creative works that honours and respect the integrity of Chinese culture.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my works that reflect my identity as a Chinese Canadian, collaborating with artists across different disciplines, and fostering a stronger Canadian arts community. I am also glad to be able to nurture emerging dancers and teach young children about Chinese culture.

How does the art of dance continue to inspire you?

Dance is a universal language that allows me to express myself more than words. It continues to push my expression and creative boundaries to make connections with audience. It is especially hard during COVID times when artists are not given a venue to perform live for our audiences, yet I continue to produce works and think of various ways to reach out digitally. It is the passion of expressing oneself during these difficult times that I feel an even stronger need to reach out to our community as we need each other to get through this together.

What do you think the future holds for the Toronto dance community?

Toronto has one of the most vibrant dance scenes in Canada. With the help of Toronto Arts Foundation and Toronto Arts Council, Toronto artists continue to thrive and make arts very accessible for tourism and local Torontonians. With many major international dance festivals and presenters, there are more and more opportunities for collaborations which helps our community and economy grow.

How does it feel to be nominated for the Muriel Sherrin Award?

I am honoured to be nominated for the award. This award celebrates artists who contribute to art and culture in Toronto. I am very grateful to the Toronto Arts Foundation in recognizing these artists who try to make a positive impact and influences in Toronto.