Final Bow for Yellowface co-founder Phil Chan named USC Kaufman’s 2024 Commencement speaker

March 19, 2024

Final Bow for Yellowface Co-Founder Phil Chan | Photo by Eli Schmidt

The artist and activist will deliver the keynote address to USC Kaufman’s Class of 2024 in May.

The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance is pleased to announce its 2024 commencement speaker: author, educator, and activist Phil Chan, co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, an organization whose mission is to improve Asian representation in dance and the performing arts. Chan is also a founding member and President of the Gold Standard Arts Foundation, which supports Asian creatives working in dance. He will address USC Kaufman’s graduating Class of 2024 at this year’s commencement ceremony on Friday, May 10, 2024, in Founders Park at USC’s University Park Campus.

“Phil’s work to promote equity and inclusion has drawn the attention and admiration of the entire dance profession, particularly in the area of classical ballet,” said Julia M. Ritter, Dean of USC Kaufman. “For our students, this is a chance to hear from someone who is actively engaged with the dance community and passionate about shaping its future. Phil is the ideal person to address our motivated graduating Class of 2024.”

Final Bow for Yellowface began as a call to action. In 2017, Chan was invited by then artistic director of the New York City Ballet Peter Martins to discuss The Nutcracker, in particular the role of “Tea,” often referred to as “The Chinese Dance.” Following the meeting, he and Georgina Pazcoguin launched Final Bow for Yellowface to highlight companies who pledged to eliminate outdated stereotypes of Asians in classical and contemporary works of dance. Since then, almost every major American ballet company has signed the pledge, and many European companies are beginning to have these conversations. As the President of the Gold Standard Arts Foundation, Chan works to advocate for opportunities for his Asian creative peers, build community, and offer professional development specifically serving the AAPI community. As an artist, he recently directed a critically acclaimed Madame Butterfly for Boston Lyric Opera and La Bayadere for Indiana University without the standard oriental framing. 

“Folks are finally connecting the dots between the idea that what we put onstage actually has an impact on the people offstage,” Chan once told The New York Times.

Chan is a graduate of Carleton College and an alumnus of the Ailey School. He has held fellowships with Dance/USA, Drexel University, Jacob’s Pillow, Harvard University, the Manhattan School of Music, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, NYU, and the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris. As a writer, he is the author of Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing between Intention and Impact and Banishing Orientalism, and has served as the Executive Editor for FLATT Magazine and contributed to Dance Europe Magazine, and currently serves on the Advisory Board of Dance Magazine. He served multiple years on the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel and the Jadin Wong Award panel presented by the Asian American Arts Alliance. He was a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of Dance at Carleton College, and was named a Next 50 Arts Leader by the Kennedy Center. His upcoming projects include a series of 10,000 Dreams Asian Choreography Festivals around the country, including a week at the Kennedy Center in June. His choreography is in repertory at Ballet West and Oakland Ballet this season.