I recently read an article titled “How an American Dancer Introduced Tai Chi to America”. The article was about Sophia Delza who was a pioneer in introducing Tai Chi to non-Chinese-Americans. In 1948, Sophia Delza moved to Shanghai with her husband. On one of her trips to Beijing, she discovered Tai Chi. She wrote in her book T’ai-Chi Ch’uan Body and Mind in Harmony, The Integration of Meaning and Method about a dramatic scene early one morning when she first stumbled upon Tai Chi in T’ai Mizo Park.
“Dozens of people, young and old, were each doing his exercise, each clearly centered on himself. No outside sound of voice or instrument directed the movement. The slow, continuous flow of form and the impeccably even tempo seemed to come not only from some mastery within each one but also from the intrinsic nature of the action itself.” - Sophia Delza
Delza was fascinated with the effortless movements that seemed amazingly light and stable. Sophia Delza quickly realized that this was not just a dance she was seeing. She wanted to know more and was introduced to Ma Yueh-Liang, a famed Tai Chi teacher of Wu style Tai Chi. She convinced Ma Yueh-Liang to teach her and she spent many years studying Wu style Tai Chi with Ma Yueh-Liang.
When Sophia Delza returned to New York from China in 1951 she would become an advocate for lecturing, teaching and writing about Tai Chi. She was definitely a pioneer in introducing Tai Chi in Manhattan where it was relatively unknown outside of Asian communities.
After reading this article, I am intrigued to learn more about this woman, who upon being introduced to the art of Tai Chi has decided to not only learn all she can about it but also pass this treasure to all of us. I will put this book on my next to-read list.
To purchase a copy of Sophia Delza's book, T’ai-Chi Ch’uan Body and Mind in Harmony, The Integration of Meaning and Method, Click here or visit your local library to read the book for free.