Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

This month and beyond, we celebrate the AAPI dancers, students, faculty and staff of Atlanta Ballet.

Airi Igarashi. Photo by Rachelle Neville.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a month-long celebration aimed to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americas to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.

This month and beyond, we celebrate the AAPI dancers, students, faculty and staff that contribute so much to Atlanta Ballet and its Centre for Dance Education, and who have made an undeniable impact on Atlanta’s arts community. 

A few AAPI members of our Atlanta Ballet family took some time to share some interesting facts about themselves and their heritage:

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself!

Whether it’s brewing coffee at home using different methods or going to new coffee shop around Atlanta, I LOVE coffee. I also brew my own Kombucha at home. – Company Dancer Saho Kumagai


My husband, who was also a Company member at the time, proposed during our final curtain call of The Nutcracker. – Centre Faculty Member and Former Company Dancer Abigail Tan-Gamino.


In addition to being a Company dancer, I make my own leotards! I also make candles on the side. – Fuki Takahashi 

What makes you proud of your heritage? 


My grandfather on my mother’s side was born and raised in the Philippines. He was the middle of seven children, and when he was only 18 years old, he came to the United States to join the Navy and fight in the Korean War. It was his dream to immigrate to America and make a better life for himself and his family. I can say with great pride, that I owe my life to my grandfather. If it weren’t for him, I would not have so much to be thankful for every day. Thank you, Papa Winnie, for making so many sacrifices in your life, so that I may live mine to the fullest in this beautiful land of opportunity. I miss you every day. – Company Dancer Erica Alvarado


I am half Korean and half Caucasian and I would not be here today if my grandpa hadn’t managed to escape from North Korea. – Atlanta Ballet 2 Dancer Samantha Schuermann

Given the recent surge in violence and discrimination against Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander people, there is no better time to learn about and support AAPI communities. Below is a short list of resources to get you started:

  • Final Bow for Yellowface is a dance organization dedicated to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians in ballet. Atlanta Ballet wholeheartedly supports this mission and has proudly signed its petition.
  • Stop AAPI Hate is a nonprofit social organization that runs the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, which tracks incidents of discrimination, hate and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.
  • AAPI Women Lead's #ImReady Movement aims to strengthen the progressive political and social platforms of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. through the leadership of self-identified AAPI women and girls. "Our goal is to challenge and help end the intersections of violence against and within our communities. We do this work in solidarity with other communities of color," a statement on the organization's website reads. 
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice's mission is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.
  • Gold House unifies the world's largest populace to enable more authentic multicultural representation and societal equity.
  • Asian Women Alliance (AWA) is an action-oriented network dedicated to using its collective platforms to help raise awareness and fun non-profit organizations in order to aid their continued work of: protecting marginalized AAPI women and their elders; driving social, political and economic change for AAPI women and youth; and fighting Asian hate. 

Photos by Kim Kenney & Charlie McCullers.