What started as a virtual series highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander choreographers has evolved into a fully produced multicompany extravaganza. Its aim is not only to eradicate stereotypical portrayals of Asian Americans in dance once and for all but also to share the wealth of talent and creativity of Asian dance in the United States.

"10,000 Dreams: A Celebration of Asian Choreography" comes to Northrop this week for two performances featuring three ballet companies — the Washington Ballet, BalletMet and Oakland Ballet Company. A different version of the show will be performed at New York City's Kennedy Center in June.

"One of the things that we're excited about is that these three ballet companies and the five choreographers that are featured on the program are all going to be appearing at Northrop for the first time," said Kristen Brogdon, Northrop's director of programming.

"10,000 Dreams" emerged from the Final Bow for Yellowface movement to end demeaning depictions of Asians in ballet. It was started by choreographer, arts administrator and educator Phil Chan, a graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, and New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin.

"Essentially, this came out of looking at ballet companies and asking whose voices were getting heard," Chan said. "We were really seeing a lot of ballet companies working with primarily white choreographers. We saw all these Orientalist depictions with kimonos and turbans onstage from companies who didn't hire Asian creatives at all."

In 2017, Chan and Pazcoguin formed an organization that began to reach out to ballet companies and ask them to commit to eliminating offensive stereotypes of Asians in their productions. More recently, the organization has further asked companies to commit to commissioning an Asian choreographer by 2025.

"A lot of companies responded very positively to that. So what we're seeing is the fruits of one's labor from this work," Chan said.

In 2020, Pazcoguin and Chan started an online interview series, which blossomed into a festival in 2021 that incorporated short performances presented on social media channels. "It came out of directors saying, you know, we want to hire Asian choreographers, they're not on our radar," Chan said.

Final Bow for Yellowface responded by featuring 31 Asian choreographers during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May of that year.

"My takeaway is that Phil Chan is someone who loves ballets so much that he wants to make sure that it is relevant and respectful for as many people as possible," Brogdon said.

For Northrop, "10,000 Dreams" aligns with the organization's goals to be intentional about reflecting Twin Cities communities onstage. "When we think about 10,000 Dreams, we also think about the fact that the Twin Cities are the home to the second largest Hmong urban population in the United States," Brogdon said.

To support a community approach, organizations like the Hmong Museum, Theater Mu and the SEAD Project will be present before the show on Friday night. "We've been trying to keep it local with our community partners at the same time as we're highlighting national and international artists that come through Northrop," Brogdon said.

Northrop also is hosting a panel discussion with local scholars and leaders of Asian arts organizations on Wednesday, moderated by Chan.

Three of the choreographers featured in the Final Bow for Yellowface's 2021 monthlong series — Brett Ishida, Caili Quan and Edwaard Liang — are being presented in the Northrop program. Chan's choreography is part of the performance, as is the work of late trailblazer Choo San Goh.

Born to Chinese parents in Singapore, Goh was the resident choreographer and then associate artistic director of Washington Ballet, and created works for dance companies worldwide, including Paris Opera Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet. He also choreographed pieces for U.S. companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater and Dance Theatre of Harlem. He died of an AIDS-related illness at age 39 in 1987.

Brogdon calls Goh "an absolutely crystal clear, luminous choreographer." The Washington Ballet will be performing his neoclassical masterwork "Fives," as well as a trio by Ishida called "When Shall We Three Meet Again," inspired by Shakespeare and the choreographer's own family members.

BalletMet, which will return in the 2024-25 Northrop season with a new Northrop Centennial Commission, will perform a work by Liang, the first Asian American to run a U.S. ballet company. Formerly artistic director of BalletMet, he's now the artistic director of Washington Ballet.

The third company performing in the show, Oakland Ballet, is presenting two works. One is a trio by Quan. "Caili's piece has a sense of play," Brogdon said. "It uses a lot of silence, but then also some traditional and vocal music."

Oakland Ballet also will dance Chan's "Ballet des Porcelaines," (The Teapot Prince). It's set to the ballet pantomime composed by Nicolas Racot de Grandval based on a baroque fairy tale.

Chan sees his version as an allegory for Asian people. "We're real people just like you," he said. "We have hopes and dreams. Please see us as more than just porcelain dolls."

'10,000 Dreams'

When: 7:30 p.m. Fri. & 2 p.m. Sat.

Where: Northrop, 84 SE. Church St., Mpls.

Tickets: $22-$63. 612-624-2345, northrop.edu.