Artists - 2018 Journey In the West dance production

About CAAN artistic director

Jen-Jen Lin holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and an MSA in Accountancy from Bentley Graduate School of Business.  As a young adult, Jen-Jen served as artistic director for the internationally-acclaimed Lan-Yang Chinese Folklore Performing Dance Company.  In the U.S., she danced with the Chicago-based modern dance company, Jan Erkert & Dancers, taught dance at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and was a professor of dance at Trinity College in Hartford, CT.  Her modern dance choreography won the Boston Moves choreography competition, and was presented at the Emerson-Majestic Theater. 

Jen-Jen founded CAAN in December, 2002, to continue pursuing her passion in performing arts as well as promoting Chinese arts.  Jen-Jen was awarded “Living Cultural Treasure Award” by Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, in 2000, and the Carell Fine Arts Artist in Residence in 2013 at the Harpeth Hall School.  She has taught Chinese dance at the Nashville Chinese School, was Principal of the Nashville Chinese School 1999-2001, the initial Chinese language program teacher at Eakin School, presently teaches modern dance at the Vanderbilt University’s Dance Program, TaiChi at Sevier Park, and is a Teaching Artist for the Arts Education’s ArtSmart Program at the at Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

 About the JOURNEY IN THE WEST artists 


Nerissa Aquino has danced for local choreographers and ensembles such as Company Rose, New Dialect, Blue Moves and CAAN. As a human services professional, she has a wealth of experience working in diverse and low-income settings and has a passion for bringing dance closer to people from all walks of life.  Nerissa combines her love for improvisational dance, play and nature's healing to help promote health & well-being to others. 

Marcelis Alexander Barrett, a native of Fort Worth Texas, began dancing at age twelve. He began his dance career at age sixteen, performing in Gary Goddard Entertainment's Glow in the park parade. He then went on to perform in Wow Entertainment productions at Six Flags Over Texas. He received his Bachelor's degree in Dance Theater from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angles. He has dance Professionally with Luminario Ballet in 2014 and later with Nashville Ballet's NB2 (2015-2016 season). He currently works as a teaching artist at Global Education Center and Dance with the Chinese Art Alliance of Nashville.

Ariel Benjamin discovered her love for dance while attending a Caribbean Queen Festival in the Virgin Islands. She has exploring many forms of dance ever since. While attending Vanderbilt University, she formed lasting relationships with people like Jen-Jen, who inspire her to live bolder, work harder, and dance forever. After graduating, Ariel became a copy editor for a global ministry where she gets to do something meaningful with her love of cultures. “Create” is one of her favorite words, and she's always looking for ways to bring creativity out of others.

Sally Bigham is a Nashville native who has a passion for dance, music, and anything that lifts the spirit.  She is currently studying at Peru State University in Peru, Nebraska and will receive her BS in Psychology in May of 2018.  She has plans to enter the world of counseling to help patients who suffer from addiction and childhood trauma.

Chin-Zue Chen was born in Taiwan and is a professor at Austin Peay State University. He is interested in Chinese calligraphy and painting, art, and design. He also teaches Tse-Ling (Chinese yo-yo). Chin-Zue been in many CAAN productions, played the hand puppets for “Our Stories”, one of the “Ten Suns” for “Goddess”, MuLan’s father in “MuLan & Poetry”, a peddler and an officer for “Dragon Tales”, and the cow for “Across the Milky Way”. He appreciates and enjoys the experiences with CAAN.

A Nashville native, Tyler Harding has been performing with the Chinese Arts Alliance since Fall 2016 as a part of the Lion Dance Team. Before starting his current position with Metro Nashville Public Schools helping manage an Elementary Literacy program, he taught English abroad in Chile and Ecuador for a total of four years. A lifelong lover of world cultures and languages, Tyler is excited to explore these passions through art, dance, and movement. 

Camila Herrera was born in Colombia and moved to the US at age 17.  Camila started dancing as a Ballet and Latin American Folklore dancer. At age 18, she began Ballroom Dancing and she quickly found her niche as a Latin Dancesport Competitor and Dance Instructor. She is currently part of the Global Education Center dance team and has joined Jen-Jen to be part of this production with the Chinese Art Alliance of Nashville.

Camila works full time with immigrants and refugees across the state, assisting them in the naturalization process and integrating them into to their communities.

Dara Howe is a native Nashvillian with a lifelong passion for ballet and other dance forms including flamenco and East Indian bharatanatyam. She was a student of Albertine Maxwell and performed with the Nashville Ballet in its formative years. She continues to study ballet with Barry Gager at the Centennial Performing Arts Center. Performing in the role of grandmother comes easily to her since she has two granddaughters who reside with their parents in Shanghai, China. 

Pegah Kadivar has a BS in Biology. She started learning dance as an adult and has taught belly, Azeri, Nia, and ballroom dance.  She takes classes at Nashville Ballet and Centennial Park. Performances with CAAN include "Nu Shu", "Journey", "Snow Lotus", "Princess Jade Countess", "We Are One", “Qi”, "Lost Horse", "Space," and is been part of CAAN’s lion dance team. She has also helped with CAAN administration. She wants to take this opportunity to thank Jen-Jen Lin and all others involved for their hard work and dedication. Pegah also appreciates her husband’s (Alex Chernowitz) support with her dance projects.

David Li was born in Hainan, a tropical island off the coast of China. He moved to Ohio at the age of three and lived there until he moved to Baltimore for college. There he joined the Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe and fell in love with the Fut San style, with its emphasis on strong movements and powerful stances. He is excited to continue spreading the strength and beauty of Chinese dance here in Nashville, TN. When not Lion Dancing, David is a full-time student at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. In his free-time, David enjoys reading, hiking, and playing with his cat.

Li-Zung Lin is a long-time performing arts supporter and lover. She has attended many CAAN performances as a spectator and has always admired the performers. For this Journey to the West production, she looks forward to performing on stage after several months of hard work and discovering the challenges of rehearsals.   

Huiyen Lo was born and raised in a countryside of XinZhu, Taiwan and works as a Special Education teacher in Davidson county. She has enjoyed body movement ever since she was a child and loves any folklore music and dance.  

Originally from Atlanta, Victoria Quach moved to Nashville from Austin with her family two years ago.  She is one of the newest members in Nashville’s Dragon Team.  She trained in Kung Fu and Tai Chi for seven years.   Some of her loves are time with her family, being active and trying new things.  She is very excited about supporting the arts in this endeavor.

Joseph Rembert has been performing with the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville since 2006, including roles in productions of Mulan, Snow Lotus, and Dragon Tales. Joseph began as a Lion Dancer for CAAN, later incorporating some martial arts and break dance acrobatics in some of CAAN's modern dance arrangements. In the past twelve years Joseph has performed with CAAN in over a hundred different shows and presentations including Lion Dance, Chinese Folk Dance, Modern, and Kung Fu demonstrations. 

Lynn Bryce Sherman is once again privileged to join Chinese Arts Alliance Nashville in revisiting the ever-lovely Dragon Pearl. She appreciates the opportunity to create and bring art to her community. Among family and friends, she is infamous for dancing at every opportunity, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of her children. The genres of dance she has enjoyed exploring include Balinese, Ballet, Tap, Broadway Jazz, Lindy-hop, Ballroom, and Swing.

Gabby Siew first appeared with CAAN as the lead Magpie at the QiXi production.  Since then, she develops a passion for dance.  She continues to study dance at the University School of Nashville’s dance program. Gabby is 12 years old.

Born in northern Burma/Myanmar, Kap Sum grew up dancing to the traditional tribal dances of his Zomi people.  He stepped inside a formal dance class for the first time at the age of 21 as an undergrad student at Belmont University, and continued while in his master’s degree at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He has studied classical Indian dance, modern dance, contact improvisation, and has worked with New Dialect.  He has also performed with Amanda Roche’s social justice dance choreographies, and leads a bamboo dance team called Phialya for the youth of Nashville’s Zomi community.  With CAAN, Kap has been on the lion dance team and performed in numerous productions such as The Lost Horse, Across the Milky Way, and Asian Fusion. 

Dancers from Nashville School of the Arts:

Gianna Belsito, 16 years old; Carmen Burlingame, 14 years old; Kennedy Davidson,15 years old; Natalie Dusek,17 years old; Andrea Farries, 16 years old; Bridget Perry, 18 years old; Darby Rystrom, 15 years old; Alexa Thomas, 16 years old; Amaya Porter, 18 years old.

Dancers from Rejoice School of Ballet:

Ali Ahlbrandt, Home School, 1st grader; Kambria Ayers, Lockland School, 2nd grader; Sydney Johnson, Nashville Prep School, 6th grader; Siena Mangeri, Dan Mill School, 2nd grader; Evenlyn Mogan, Home School, 2nd grader; Neriah Taylor, Eakin School, 3rd grader; Niamiah Taylor, Ensworth School, 5th grader; Jael Rowe, Waverly Belmont School, 3rd grader; Winter Walsh, Explore School, 2nd grader; Dymme Waters, Jones Paideia School, 4th grader.


Melinda Lio began pipa lessons 18 years ago in Kentucky, then later had teachers in Tianjin and Shanghai, China. She has an undergraduate degree in music with a focus in piano and completed course work for a masters in ethnomusicology at the University of Kentucky. When she moved to Nashville, she continued to play pipa primarily because of the Chinese Arts Alliance, which organized outreach to schools and libraries in addition to performances at Vanderbilt and OZ Arts Nashville. She has also collaborated with aerial dancers for the Sideshow Fringe Festival and most recently with chatterbird, and currently teaches piano at W.O. Smith. 

Coming from a musical family, Michael Lucarelli started viola at age 9. He has since expanded his skills to include the standard violin, as well as 5-string violin and 6-string electric violin. This eclectic set of skills has expanded his musical language from a classical starting point to include jazz, Swedish folk, rock, Indian, Arabic, and more. A graduate from Belmont University's Commercial Music Program, Michael has worked with many established musicians including: Neal Morse (Neal Morse Band), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Dr. David Wallace (Berklee String Department Chair), Billy Contreras (George Jones). Michael's passion through teaching and performing music is to inspire all generations to be a part of a global community of music making.

Jesse Strauss, a percussionist and graduate of Belmont University, specializes in chamber music and improvised music for dance. As an accompanist and performer, he has worked with Nashville based dance companies Epiphany, FALL Dance, Belmont University Dept. of Dance, and Tennessee’s Governor School for the Arts. Jesse is the regular percussionist for Chatterbird, a contemporary classical ensemble.  He has performed solo and chamber music at TEDx Nashville, the Nashville Sideshow Fringe Festival, OZ Arts, Chosen Vale Percussion seminar, Princeton’s Unruly Sounds festival, and the Pittsburgh New Music Festival. Jesse serves as cofounder and organizer of Make Music Nashville, a free day of music that brings outdoor concerts and participatory musical activities to neighborhoods around the city.  When not making music, you may find him cycling around town on his red Peugeot and listening to public radio.

Off stage artists

Arlene Wilson's career in the arts began with fifteen years of historic preservation, establishing a stained-glass studio in Arkansas. In pursuit of fine arts and celebrating a lifelong love of fiber, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Textiles. In the twenty years to follow, she founded AW Art to Wear (designing custom apparel) as well as Alb & Altar which created original church altar attire. She presently incorporates her past art experience and love for the disappearing natural world into mixed media abstract paintings. 

Benton C Bainbridge is a media artist lives in New York, and known for creating single channel video, interactive artworks, immersive installations and live visual performances with custom digital, analog and optical systems of his own design. He is faculty at School of Visual Arts MFA Computer Arts department. His work is collected in the collection and the "ETC: Experimental Television Center Archives" in the Rose Goldsen Media Archives at Cornell University and The Kitchen Archive at the Getty Research Institute.

Buist E Hardison, is a Nashville native. He received a BA in Fine Arts from Fisk University, a, Bachelors of Social Work from Tennessee State University and attended Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and has taught at the Children Art Carnival in NYC, Rutgers University, and Fisk University. Mr. Hardison has shown at numerous galleries in the south and at Studio Museum in Harlem NYC, Ruby Green and Zeitgeist Gallery in Nashville. Mr. Hardison has illustrated children’s books, and was the author and illustrator of "Five Little Shorties” published in 2007. Mr. Hardison assist the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville with tech-support and prop design. The pride and joy of Mr. Hardison's life is his two children Raven and Arion.

Mei-Yen Cracraft is originally from Taipei, Taiwan, with a background in broadcasting, telecommunications, fine arts, and language teaching. Currently, she teaches high school Chinese at the University School of Nashville, and Chinese culture and art at the Nashville Chinese School. She has worked with the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville on various projects and productions since 2003.

Isabelle Moser is a special make-up artist.  She is a senior at Brentwood Academy.

JoTing Wong Was born and raised in Taiwan. She moved to the United States with her family in 1997. Ms. Wong earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Tennessee State University in Business Information Systems. She is a Data Analyst at the General Auto Insurance. She has taught Chinese Language to kindergarten class since 2000 at Nashville Chinese School and Memphis City Schools. Ms. Wong is a member of CAAN Lion Dance team and is Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville administrator. She is the front house manager since CAAN’s first dance production

Nashville Dragon Dance Team at the 2018 Nashville Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon dancers:

Julian Buchi-Fotre, Russell Buchi, Pierre Hunt, Phillip Lewis, Guo Qiang Li, Russanne Buchi-Fotre, Huizhen Liu, Jay Zheng, Bin Zhao, Detang Shi, JianMei Perkins

Musicians: Jen-Jen Lin, Pegah Kadivard, JoTing Wong Technical support: Buist Hardison

CAAN’s Lion Dance Team at OZ Arts Nashville’s Musicircus in 2018

Lion dancers: Joseph Rembert, Tyler Harding, Keri Friedman, JianMei Perkins, Kap Sum

Musicians: Jen-Jen Lin, Jo-Ting Wong, LiZung Lin Technical Support: Buist Hardison

Dance Nashville at the 2018 Creatives’ Day at Nashville Public Library

Dancers: ChinZue Chen, MeiYen Cracraft', Pegah Kadivar, LiZung Lin, HuiYen Lo, Lynn Sherman, Lucy Wang, Jo-Ting Wong, Fang Yu, Joy Tong, Shu-Mei Lee

Artistic Director/Choreographer: Jen-Jen Lin Coordinator: LiZung Lin

Dance Nashville was established to allow dancers with all levels can enjoy dancing! The dancers includ CAAN's seasoned dancers and teachers or parents from Nashville Chinese School.

Photographers for this website:

Martin O’Connor, Ray Friedman, Olga Kryshtal, Price Chamber, Cindy HuiLio, John Organ Jr., Buist Hardison, Jen-Jen Lin.