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curtain call at the end of a performance

Yanlai Wu is an internationally celebrated performer and choreographer whose background, training, and dedication to her artistry are reflected in the values of Yanlai Dance Academy. At the age of twelve, Ms. Wu was one of 25 children selected from 1 billion candidates to attend the Affiliated Middle School of Beijing Dance Academy. When the Beijing Dance Academy was established in 1954, distinguished Russia dancers and choreographers, including the ballet mistress from the Bolshoi Ballet, were recruited to help establish China’s first professional dance school, which is based in the rigorous Russian Vaganova technique. Since then, the Beijing Dance Academy has become the world’s largest educational institute for dance, offering ballet training, choreography, and Chinese classical dance. Ms. Wu joined the premier Chinese dance company—Beijing Youth Dance Troupe—upon graduation from the Beijing Dance Academy. She performed in many national and international arts festivals with the Beijing Youth Dance Troupe, including the American International Arts Festival, and the Chinese New Year’s Eve Celebration 1988 seen on CCTV by more than a billion people.


Some of the awards and acknowledgments Ms. Wu received early in her career include First Prize at the Beijing Dance Competition in 1987, the Choreography Award at Guangzhou International Dance Festival in 1988, and the Special Achievement Award and the Second Prize at Guangzhou Art Competition in 1989. Yanlai Wu joined the New Arts Service Agency (NASA) of Japan as a dancer and choreographer, where she created modern dance performance pieces as well as classical Chinese and Japanese dances. While in Japan, Ms. Wu served as the principal dancer for the Setsuko Ishiguro Dance Company. She was honored to be the only dancer invited to perform for legendary fashion designer Issey Miyake at the important 1995 Paris-Tokyo Fashion Show. In 1999, Ms. Wu choreographed, produced, and performed in the epic Dream Symphony, a large-scale performance of more than 300 artists reproducing the palace music and dance of the Tang dynasty, which is recognized as a peak period for traditional Chinese dance.


Ms. Wu began teaching in the United States in 2003 at the Mitsi Dancing School in Houston. Moving to Pittsburgh a year later, Ms. Wu founded her own dance academy—Oriental Star Dance School. One of the first instructors to join Ms. Wu was Ying Li, a former classmate at Beijing Dance Academy who was a celebrated prima ballerina with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. Ying Li has since returned to China. Ms. Wu changed the name of the school to Yanlai Dance Academy when she expanded the dance curriculum. Ms. Wu continues to offer students her support and encouragement as she leads them through the artistic world and beauty of many dance forms.

a teacher helps kids do the splits

Yanlai Wu

a dance teacher demonstrates to her students
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Yanlai Brings
Dances to Life

Paintings by a (Dance) Master

Yanlai explores a new hobby during the Covid-19 pandemic

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