BELLEVUE, Wash. — The American Asian Performing Arts Theatre has spent nearly 30 years serving our region with dance and art.
It’s something artistic director Hengda Li has been proud to build. A master of dance in China, he saw a need in Seattle and filled it with joy.
“A lot of people, the whole Chinese community - they support the arts. Create a dance event, a music event, martial arts. Everything would build up together,” says Hengda.
But in June 2020, disaster struck.
“My friend called me, said your studio has been burned,” he says. “And I watched on TV the building was burned.”
The group’s studio in the Chinatown International District was destroyed.
Heartbreak followed by an effort to relocate to a space in Bellevue. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the group started ZOOM dance classes that are now being picked up all over the world.
“They come and take class from Canada and France and Houston, California. And so they only can online. They cannot come to Seattle,” says Hengda.
Then, more problems. The group says its CenturyLink internet connection wasn’t working well.
“So the speed is not good and the stability, the quality of the internet is not very good at all,” volunteer Shu-Hsien Lee tells me.
She says she reached out to Comcast for a new connection.
“So they said that they have to pull a line in to provide the faster internet service,” says Shu-Hsien.
So in May of 2021, the group paid over $4,000 dollars for the job.
“And actually our first completion date that they gave us was October last year,” remembers Shu-Hsien.
October danced right by with no work done.
“And everytime we called them, for status or follow-up, the story that we received was it’s stuck in the city permitting process. You know, we’re waiting for the City of Bellevue to issue the permit,” says Shu-Hsien.
“We learned by contacting the city ourselves that Comcast did not actually apply for a permit until October 15th,” she says.
More delays were followed by more bills: Comcast increased the price to $33,000.
The reason for the jump? Comcast says it did not investigate all the costs before providing an estimate.
Shu-Hsien says the non-profit can’t afford the new price tag.
“We believe that the services that we provide to the community is so important. And we really like to have Comcast help us out a little bit,” she says. “You know?”
Shu-Hsien called me and I went to Comcast.
To its credit, the cable giant stepped up fast. In a statement a company spokesman says:
“We’ve spoken with the American Asian Performing Arts Theater and extended our sincere apology for how we managed the permit process, cost estimates, and communications. Construction of this kind can be long and complicated, and we are now planning to connect this property to our network at no additional cost to the customer.”
There are signs that the work will begin soon.
And so will the dancing - for people not just here, but around the world.
The group’s next major performance takes place June 10 - 12.
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