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Never Fade Away, Directed by Donna Weng Friedman

Never Fade Away is the moving true story about a young Chinese immigrant who escapes imprisonment during the Japanese Invasion, comes to America with nothing but his hopes and dreams, and how a radio and a waltz changes his life. Told through narration, music and dance, this short film shines a light on the healing power of music as well as the power of the immigrant experience. Featuring the extraordinary history-making dancer Chun Wai Chan and the exquisite ballerina Xiaoxiao Cao, their stunning pas de deux at the end will take your breath away. This story of heritage will bring you to tears and the music and dance will make your heart soar. Stories like this are the ties that bind and should Never Fade Away.

Directors Statement:

What started out as a love letter to my parents has since turned into an homage to all those who came here before us- the diverse community of people from all backgrounds living in America- a country where dreams can come true.

The themes throughout the story are universal- the healing power of music and the power of the immigrant experience - these are the ties that bind. Our stories of heritage connect us and should Never Fade Away.


…(Weng Friedman) created the film, Never Fade Away, the program’s second piece. Normally I wouldn’t spend much space discussing a film, whether a component of a program or a “supplement” for some special occasion, but this one is different. It’s not a dance film per se, though it includes dance episodes and choreography by Grossman. It’s an immigration story – success in the face of overwhelming odds.

That sort of thing’s been done many times before in many different artistic contexts, but this one is different both because the story is different (not surprising, since individual immigration journeys are individual almost by definition), it avoids the temptation to milk the compelling story, and it has a beautiful heart that it wears proudly on its sleeve.

In short, the film is something of an homage from Weng Friedman to her father, Sin-Tzu Weng, who emigrated from China in the 1940s with little more than the shirt on his back, saved his pennies, bought a radio with his savings, and listened to Chopin – which changed his life. But “homage” is too stiff a word –Never Fade Away is more of a composite memory translated to film and presented with exceptional strength, restraint, and technical skill. Not a moment is out of place or stretched too long. And, as should be obvious by now, music and dance are its heart and soul. Grossman’s choreography, a waltz she choreographed for New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Chun Wei Chan and Xiaoxioa Cao, a ballerina and Broadway performer with considerable professional experience who played his wife, as well as a solo choreographed and performed by Chun himself, are indispensable components of this brilliant, albeit all too brief, film.

Weng Friedman directed and produced Never Fade Away and played the Chopin music that’s integral to it. The cinematography was by Garrett Parker; the editor was Siyi Chen, and Weng Friedman as a child was played by Mijo Chang. All, including Grossman and the film as a whole, deserve whatever award recognition for which it might be eligible.

There are far too few films (at least to my knowledge) that relate individual journeys of Asian immigrants. I read Amy Tan’s novel “The Joy Luck Club,” which was made into a film, but that’s the only one that comes immediately to mind. This one is different; it’s a true story. If Never Fade Way is shown in the future, see it. And bring a tissue. Make that a box.

-JerryHochman, CriticalDance


Director, writer and producer: Donna Weng Friedman


Chun Wai Chan, as Sin-Tzu Weng- Chun is the first Chinese principal dancer in NYC Ballet's 75 year history

Xiaoxiao Cao, as Rosalta Li Weng

Mijo Chang as young Donna

Cinematographer: Garrett Parker

Editor: Siyi Chen

Narration: Donna Weng Friedman

Choreographer: Ariel Grossman

Vocal Narration Producer: David Frost

Sound mixer: William Hsieh

Film consultant: Hao Wu


Prelude by Beat Moon

Space Between the Fish and the Moon by Chinary Ung

Waltz in C sharp minor by Frederic Chopin

Performed/recorded by Donna Weng Friedman, pianist

Poster design:

Xiran Luo


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