July 21, 2003
Renowned choreographer, dancer, and visual artist Mel Wong died of a
heart attack on Thursday, July 17, in Santa Cruz. He was 64.
Wong established an international reputation, first as a performer with
the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and then as a choreographer, teacher,
and performer with the Mel Wong Dance Company. He had been a professor
of dance in the Theater Arts Department at UC Santa Cruz since 1989.
Wongs paintings and sculpture have been exhibited in galleries
and museums throughout the country. His dance background included professional
training in ballet and modern dance in California and New York. He received
a Ford Foundation Scholarship to Balanchines School of American
Ballet in 1964 and 1965, and toured internationally with the Merce Cunningham
Dance Company (1968-72). He choreographed and performed his own work since
1970, and formed the Mel Wong Dance Company in 1975.
Wongs company performed throughout the United States and in most
of the major dance festivals in New York City, as well as at the Asian
Arts Festival in Hong Kong (1983) and in Japan. He choreographed more
than 180 dances, and his works can be seen in the repertoires of companies
in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, Japan, and Europe.
In 1983-84, Wong became the first Chinese-American to receive a Guggenheim
Fellowship in choreography. He also received grants and fellowships from
the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the
Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Performing Arts, the Cultural Council
of Santa Cruz County, and the Ford Foundation.
Wongs educational background includes a B.A. from San Francisco State University and graduate work at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at Mills College, where he received an M.F.A. in visual arts, as well as the Catherine Morgan Trefethen Fellowship in Art.
Wong is survived by his wife, UCSC lecturer in dance Constance Kreemer, and daughters Anika, Kira, and Suzanna Kreemer Wong, all of Santa Cruz; his mother, Louise Wong of Alameda; his brother, Maurice Wong of Oakland, and two nieces and two nephews.
A public celebration of Mel Wongs life in Santa Cruzincluding
music and dancewill be held in September on a date to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible contributions toward a college fund
for his children may be made to the Mel Wong Dance Foundation, Inc., 201
Dickens Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.