What does tai chi, stir-fry cooking and a beheaded Barbie doll have to do with Asian American identity? You can find out from playwright Maria Cheng, co-founder of Denver's Asian American theater troupe, Theatre Esprit Asia. She brings a stand-up comic's timing, a storyteller's narrative sensibility and a martial artist's precision to her one-woman piece, "Spirit and Sworded Treks," which explores the place of a Chinese woman in contemporary America.
 
If you missed the performance as TEA's debut production at the Vintage Theater in Aurora, you have a chance to see an excerpt from it this week. Cheng is one of the featured performers at the Aurora Asian/Pacific Community Partnership's annual Holiday Tea & Dinner.
 

Maria Cheng, a founder of Theatre Esprit Asia, in a scene from her solo performance, "Spirit & Sworded Treks."

(Photo: Courtesy of Theatre Esprit Asia)
This year's party is slated for Tuesday, December 10 at 6 P.M., at Jai Ho Indian Kitchen (3055 So. Parker Rd). Along with Cheng's excerpt of "Sworded Treks," the evening will showcase Indian dancing provided by by the restaurant. 
 
The "Partnership," as it's called, serves as a bridge between the city and its Asian population, from Koreans and Vietnamese to Burmese and Nepalese. 
 
The Aurora Asian/Pacific Community Partnership was formed in 1989 by then-mayor Paul Tauer, and it has supported the metro area's pan-Asian communities since. The organization asks attendees to bring tea and cookies for a gift exchange, as well as winter clothes for refugees in need among the city's Asian communities.
 
"Over the years, the Partnership has had a two-fold mission to educate the general public about Aurora’s diverse Asian Pacific American population and to educate the APA community about the services that are available to them through the city of Aurora," explains Frankie Anderson, secretary and treasurer for the group's Steering Committee. "(The group) has coordinated many cultural presentations and receptions through film, education awards programs, public forums, museum exhibits, as well as mini-cultural presentations at its regular monthly meetings."
 
Partnership Co-Chair Andrea Amonick, who is also the city's Manager of Development Services, adds, “According to the last Census, Aurora is a majority minority community. The Aurora Asian/Pacific Community Partnership is a part of the way Aurora supports its growing and diverse small business community.” A focus on the viability of Asian-owned businesses is one of the mssions of the organization. 
 
Although current figures aren't available because ethnicity isn't a reporting requirement, over 3,000 Asian-owned businesses operated in Aurora in 2007, according to the American FactFinder research firm.
 
Anderson says that as of the 2012 Census' American Community Survey, "there are 15,000 Asians living in Aurora, approximately 5,000 households, with a median age of 39, or close to 19,000 Asians in combination with one or more other races. There are approximately 5,000 Asian students enrolled in school." 
 
Anyone who's driven along the stretch of Havana in Aurora that's commonly called "Koreatown" wouldn't be surprised by the numbers.
 

Gil Asakawa is a journalist, author and blogger (www.nikkeiview.com) who is active in Denver's Asian community. He received the "Voice" award from the Asian American Journalists Association at the 2013 V3 conference.