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Flushing dance instructor honored by city arts group

Mei-Yin Ng steps in — no pun intended — to teach dance at city public schools that have been forced to make cuts to arts education, including PS 20 at 142-30 Barclay Ave. in Flushing.

And on Tuesday, she received a prestigious award for her efforts from Arts Connection, the nonprofit arts education organization that gave her the opportunity to bring her Chinese folk dance skills to students at more than 20 schools over the past 15 years

The Janklow Awards are a prestigious annual honor bestowed by Arts Connection, and this year Ng is the sole “teaching artist” recipient.

For the past six years, the Brooklyn resident has served as a full-blown teaching artist, a position that allows her to come into schools — for the last couple she has been posted at PS 20 — once a week for 14 to 16 weeks each year and teach dance.

A Malaysian-born professional dancer and choreographer, Ng has a full-time job directing the MEI-BE WHATever experimental dance ensemble. But when Ng, of Chinese descent, is in her paid role at PS 20, she takes that expertise and brings dance to young English as a Second Language students.

First, she teaches the second- through fifth-graders some basic traditional dances, such as ones using fans, ribbons and chopsticks. Then she leads them through the process of writing their own stories, choreographing them and acting out the finished products.

“I just kind of guide them. The whole idea is we want them to understand what the background is, the Chinese history, and how the dances came about,” she said. “And for me, I think kids need to have ownership of what they are doing in order to do better. They need information, they need resources, and then they can create their own work, and that’s how they learn best.”

Ng received her award Tuesday night at a gala benefit at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, during which some of her third- and fifth-grade students performed a dance they had learned in her class.

Karen Hendershot, development associate for Arts Connection, said Ng has been a committed teaching artist, and that her background makes her a great fit for her current post, which just ended for the school year.

“A lot of students at PS 20 are of Chinese descent, so it’s especially meaningful for them as well as being an educational experience for all the other students,” Hendershot said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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