New doc highlights 70 years of Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team

New doc highlights 70 years of Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team
via Asian CineVision
Bryan Ke
October 16, 2023
A new documentary highlights the 70-year history of the city’s all-girls drill team consisting of Asian American members.
Key details: “She Marches in Chinatown,” which was directed by Seattle native Della Chan and is about the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team, held its world premiere at the Asian American International Film Festival on July 26. A special Seattle screening was also held at The Egyptian Theater on Saturday.

Telling their story: Chen hopes to tell the story of the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team through the 33-minute documentary, which is being touted as the “only one of its kind in the world” for combining Chinese operatic costumes and American military drills.
About the group: Founded in 1952, the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team was created after a group of Asian American high school students approached community leader Ruby Chow while searching for extracurricular activities and a way to serve the community.
The team’s performances are a combination of colorful costumes designed by Chow’s Cantonese opera singer husband and American military drills choreography. Seattle Police Department drill instructor Ted Yerabek, a friend of Chow, helped the group with its military drills routine.
The Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team has become a mainstay of local parades and celebrations for the past seven decades.
Passing the torch: Chow passed down the torch to her daughter, Cheryl Chow, in the ’80s and later to new generations of female leaders in the group.
While the older Chow died at the age of 87 on June 4, 2008, followed by her daughter five years later at the age of 66 on March 29, 2013, the two women are still featured in the documentary through archived footage.
Pushing through obstacles: While the group has pushed through some of the changes the city saw over the decades, such as gentrification, the COVID-19 pandemic reportedly has had the biggest effect on the group, notably in its number of members.
From its peak in the ’80s, the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team reportedly had 100 members, but at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers dwindled to around 30.
“Covid was a big hit,” Chen told KING5. “They have 100 uniforms that can be filled.”
What’s next: After the special Seattle screening on Saturday, “She Marches in Chinatown” will head to the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Filmfest from Oct. 20-29, followed by the Friday Harbor Film Festival from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival on Nov. 5 and then the Reel Women’s Film Festival on Nov. 12.
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