Dance on the Lawn, Montclair's free outdoor dance festival, said in an announcement this week it mourns the loss of New Jersey dance artist Nai-Ni Chen.

Chen, the founder, choreographer, and artistic director of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, died in a swimming accident while on vacation with her family in Hawaii on Dec. 12. the group said.

Chen served as a panelist and mentor for Dance on the Lawn’s "Emerging Commissioned NJ Choreographer" program, and she was scheduled to be on the DOTL stage in 2020 but transitioned to the DOTL virtual festival created that year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company presented at DOTL in September, when the festival returned to live performance. DOTL was also proud to share the stage with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company in 2016 for the new program, Dance Newark!, the group said.

“We at DOTL were lucky to have been colleagues with Nai-Ni in dance," DOTL Founder and Artistic Director Charmaine Warren and Managing Director of DOTL Laura Marchese said in the announcement. "She always said, ‘I am happy to help.’ We are so honored to have shared so many precious moments. Our deepest condolences go to Andy, the dancers, Board members, many students, and other family members of Nai-Ni, as well as all those who are grieving this tragic loss to our dance community."