For Women’s History Month, EnVi shows extra love to women across the Asian diaspora and beyond, with special features in Fashion, Beauty, Music, Film, and Culture.

From stereotype breakers to history makers, women of differing backgrounds have come together to make transformative waves around the world. As we march through Women’s History Month, leaders of today and the creatives of tomorrow continue to foster change, proving the inevitable to be possible, and bringing attention to inclusivity. To honor and celebrate the contribution of women throughout history, EnVi has spotlighted some trailblazing Asian American women who have made everlasting impacts in the world of art and music.

Representation Through Performance

Mira Nadon

Signaling the beginning of a new era for ballet, Asian American ballerina Mira Nadon brings change to the scene. In February 2023, at 21 years old, Mira Nadon became the first Asian American female principal dancer (a dancer at the highest rank within a professional dance company) of New York City Ballet. 

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Mira Nadon began her ballet training at the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy when she was six. After extensive training in the School of American Ballet (SAB), Nadon became an apprentice with the NYCB in November 2017. Eventually joining the company as a member of the corps de ballet in November 2018, Nadon became a soloist dancer (a rank placed before principal dancer and above corps de ballet) in January 2022. Through this evolutionary achievement, Mira Nadon shows the infinite possibilities within ballet and serves as a role model for her community.

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Muna Tseng

Dancer and choreographer Muna Tseng is no stranger to utilizing contemporary art for ways of empowerment and diversity. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Muna Tseng learned Chinese folk dance at a young age. It wasn’t until her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada when she discovered her newfound passion for dancing. At the age of 18, Tseng had already made her professional debut as a choreographer, designer, and dancer. Moving to New York in 1978, Tseng got her first job as a dancer with Jean Erdman (a leading figure in American modern dance as a dancer, choreographer, and director) in the Theatre of The Open Eye. Here, she became the company’s principal dancer from 1978 to 1985.

Muna Tseng is the founder of the Muna Tseng Dance Projects, an organization aiming to produce art with creative leaders in their specialized fields of contemporary art. As of present day, Muna Tseng has choreographed over 40 works and performed in over 15 countries. Tseng’s modern pieces combine Asian and Western cultures and explore the complex confrontations of self-identification, societal placement, and reflection. As a visionary and dancer acclaimed for her authenticity, Tseng consistently advocates for the inclusion of Asian American artists.

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Elizabeth Mochizuki

Japanese American retired dancer Elizabeth Mochizuki founded the first AAPI ballet company called the Asian American Ballet Project (AABP). AABP possesses a quality which makes them unique from other companies — an all-Asian American company. With AABP, Mochizuki aims to present Asian American dancers in all Asian American productions through transformation of Asian American representation through performance.

Learning ballet at a young age in California, Mochizuki was surrounded by Asian American students and guided by Asian American instructors and guests. Through this, Mochizuki felt a sense of belonging up until the beginning of her professional career where the young dancer encountered isolation, defeat, and suspicion of biases due to her ethnic identity. Mochizuki assembled AABP in order to “create a community where dancers, choreographers…musicians, costume designers, all of Asian descent, to work together to create new art and change the direction of ballet.” 

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Evolutionary Sound

Tiffany Poon

Acclaimed classical pianist and musician Tiffany Poon tells stories and expresses her emotions through her musical diaries. Surrounded by music since the moment she was born, the Hong Kong native had a deep admiration for the world of classical music. At the age of eight, Tiffany was accepted to the Juilliard pre-college program,one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. Since then, the young musician appeared with orchestras and recitals throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Australia as she continued her education in Juilliard for twelve years.

Hoping to make classical music more accessible for everyone, Tiffany founded Together with Classical, a nonprofit organization which aims to inspire musicians to learn and explore classical music with one another. Together with Classical works to support lessons, instruments, and dream music projects for dedicated musicians and highlight the stories of those who love classical music. They aim to create a space where all musicians and listeners can come together with classical music no matter who, where, or one’s musical status entails. When she’s not performing, Tiffany continues to push her personal objective in building masses for classical music appreciation as she documents her life as a classical concert pianist.

On February 9, 2024, Tiffany Poon released her debut album, Diaries: Schumann, which interprets some of Robert Schumann’s work and has charted at #1 on Billboards Traditional Classical. Tiffany is currently preparing for her tour this year with dates and locations yet to be announced.

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Yuja Wang

Pianist virtuoso Yuja Wang brings classical compositions to life through her riveting performances. Her application of theatricality not only resulted in astounding success, but also critical acclaim.

Yuja Wang was born in Beijing, China where she spent her childhood invested in piano studies. Wang received advanced training in one of the world’s leading conservatories in Canada at the Curtis Institute of Music. In 2007, she made her first international breakthrough as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, Wang signed an exclusive contract with the prestigious classical record label Deutsche Grammophon, validating her placement amidst the world’s leading artists. 

In 2023, New York Times included Yuja Wang’s Rachmaninoff marathon (with music conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin) in their list of the Best Classical Music Performances of the year. She won her first GRAMMY for Best Classical Instrumental Solo: The American Project in 2024. Recently, Wang dropped her new album Rachmaninoff: The Piano Concertos and  Paganini Rhapsody and is currently on her South American recital tour.

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Yip Wing-sie

Breaking the traditional institution of a male-dominated field, Hong Kong-born musician and conductor Yip Wing-sie became the first woman to be taken in as a resident conductor by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1986 and named as Hong Kong Sinfonietta’s first female music director in 2002. Yip Wing-sie’s remarkably rapid paced conducting style never fails to demonstrate precision and impassioned body expression as she leads renowned musicians in an engaging performance.

Hailing from a prominent musical family, Yip graduated from the Royal College of Music in London and from Indiana University Bloomington in the U.S., obtaining her master’s degree in violin performance and conducting. At the age of 25, Yip was appointed Resident Conductor at the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, later holding the positions of Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. Becoming a woman of power within an overwhelming male occupied space encouraged Yip to pursue her desires in conducting and wish to implement more women in the conducting circle.

Yip Wing-sie continues to stand as one of the most influential and respected figures in Asia’s scene of classical music as she continues to serve Hong Kong Sinfonietta as a Music Director Emeritus.

The Voice of Tomorrow

Ruby Ibarra

Ruby Ibarra amplifies the voices of Filipinos as she interlinks elements of music, poetry, and activism within her lyricism. While her hometown is located in the East Bay Area of California, Ruby proudly represents Tacloban City, Philippines and utilizes her culture to create music that reflects the Filipino identity.. Gaining inspiration from boom bap artists, Ruby’s discography is rooted in the ever-evolving hip-hop genre. Through her lyricism and incorporation of spoken word poetry, Ruby speaks for her people’s hopes and struggles. 

By the end of 2017, Ruby has toured across the U.S. and the Philippines, including universities, empowerment conferences, and music venues. Ruby has also been featured on distinguished publications such as NPR, Vogue Philippines, NY Times, LA Times, and many more. In 2018, Ruby co-founded the Pinays Rising Scholarship program – a scholarship program to help the continuation of higher education for self-identifying Pinays/xes while studying in the arts and/or activism. She is also the co-founder and CEO of the Filipino record label Bolo Music Group, which aims to connect Filipino musicians around the globe.

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Rina Sawayama

Japanese-born British singer-songwriter Rina Sawayama doesn’t shy away from sociocultural confrontation and taboo conversations the public fears to touch. Pushing the boundaries of pop music with her intense instrumentation and lyricism, her works empower individuals and advocate for societal change. Rina Sawayama is known for her genre-bending pathway in music, revolutionizing the way musicians and artists alike approach materialization and expression within pop culture. 

Graduating from the University of Cambridge in 2012 with a degree in politics, psychology, and sociology, Sawayama pursued music and modeling despite the mental and financial struggles which came along with it. As of today, Rina Sawayama continues to execute her mission in remodeling the present for the sake of the future generations who draw near.

Sawayama has won the NME Award for Best Live Act in 2018 and  became one of the recipients for Vogue Japan Women of the Year in 2019. The pop icon has also obtained the Association of Independent Music (AIM) Award for Innovator Award in 2022. In 2023, she was cast to act in the fourth installment of action movie John Wick.

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Yvette Young

Born in California, progressive guitarist and songwriter Yvette Young finds refuge in the pool of sounds and intends to inspire others through the beauty of music. Young found consolation through her guitar, and with her projects, Young hopes to spread the infectious art that is music for people anywhere and everywhere. As a visionary of today’s musical era, Young’s enchanting guitar riffs and musical soundscapes invoke a variety of emotions for listeners to find solace in, reflect, and express. 

Alongside their solo adventures, Yvette Young founded the math rock band Covet, an instrumental trio recognized for their intricate song structures and experimental rock sound. Collaborating Young’s unique finger-tapping style with the band’s complex rhythmic design, Covet shine as a powerful group with its mechanical yet dreamy feel.

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Want more trailblazing artists across the Asian diaspora? Check out our recent EnVi Rotation installment on rising indie artists here!