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Yan Chen was born in China where she started her dance training at the Shanghai Dance School. She later continued her studies at the San Francisco Ballet School and was a prizewinner at the 1987 Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. Prior to joining American Ballet Theatre in 1993, Chen was a principal dancer with the Washington Ballet. As one of ABT’s most lyrical and versatile dancers, Chen performed many demanding leading roles. She received critical praise from The New York Times for her “refined and exuberant” rendition in all pieces.