Survey Conducted: Mon, 2008-10-27
Creator: Leyda, Jay; Leyda, Si-Lan Chen
History: Si-Lan Chen was a dancer, choreographer and actor who pioneered the use of Chinese dance elements in modern dance and films such as “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946) and “The Keys to the Kingdom” (1944). Chen was born in Trinidad in 1905 to parents of African and Chinese descent. In 1912, she moved to London, where she studied dance at the Stedman Academy. In 1926 she moved to China to join her father, Eugene Chen, who had become secretary for Sun Yat-sen as well as Foreign Minister of the Canton government. However, after Chiang Kai-shek took power in 1927, the family fled to Moscow, where Chen enrolled in the Bolshoi Ballet School. She soon switched to Vera Maya’s school, finding Maya’s approach, which included both traditional ballet and more loosely organized “plastic dance,” more suitable to her own style. Chen gave her first important recital in 1930 at the Moscow Conservatory. Shortly after, she was widely recognized as the first modern Soviet dancer.
Summary: The collection contains the combined papers of Jay Leyda and Si-Lan Chen Leyda, including correspondence, clippings, scripts, research files and articles. Of particular significance are files in Series III (Chinese Cinema), containing Leyda’s clippings, correspondence, film scripts and research notes. Also included is a typescript of his book Dianying; an account of films and the film audience in China (1972). The Si Lan Chen Leyda papers, contained in Series VI through IX, document her dancing career and personal activities. The small biographical series contains her FBI file, and documents related to her travels. Si Lan Chen’s correspondence, contained in Series VII, is principally with her family and Jay Leyda. There is also correspondence with Pearl S. Buck and Langston Hughes, and a file relating to immigration issues. Her dance career is documented in Series VIII by programs, flyers, dance notations and drawings, a scrapbook, and radio interview transcripts. Series IX contains her writings, including the typescript of her autobiography, Footnote to History (1984), a diary, autobiographical notebooks and unpublished writings.
Total Size: 15.25 linear feet
APA-related Size: 3.5 linear feet
Languages of materials: English
Location: Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University
Bibliographic Control: finding aid
Finding Aid Link: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/tam_083/
Conditions Governing Access: Contact repository for detailed information on conditions governing access.