Monterey Park leaders consider permanent monument, with future of Star Ballroom Dance Studio uncertain – Orange County Register
As the Monterey Park community still mourns the Jan. 21 mass shooting that killed 11 people and injured 9 others, city officials have begun searching for a permanent structure to commemorate the victims.
Details of what such a memorial might look like or where it would go were scant, but “we are evaluating all options,” Monterey Park City manager Ron Bow said in an email Thursday, Feb. 2.
Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Wong said the city’s immediate focus is still on supporting victims, but officials have sparked interest from locals and artists around the world in a possible memorial.
With mass shootings across the country, Monterey Park would join cities and towns across the country that have erected permanent memorials to remember their dead.
In Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 college students and two college students last May, the Uvalde City Council approved a permanent monument for its town square in August. It was the town square where many mourners had come to pay their respects. The Monterey Park massacre was the worst mass shooting since Uvalde.
Just over 50 miles east of Monterey Park, in San Bernardino, just last year a memorial called “The Curtain of Courage” was unveiled at the site where 14 people were gunned down in a terrorist attack.
Nearly two weeks after the massacre, a growing collection of semi-permanent memorials continues to draw mourners outside the still-closed Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park.
Jenny Chu, who lost two friends in the carnage, stayed away from the well-wishers and captured the scene on Wednesday. She taught proper dance hall etiquette.
“Always change partners,” she said. “Don’t be the couple who keep to themselves.”
Chu has danced at Star Ballroom Studio for the past decade and is well versed in the moves that make strangers friends.
She said the studio is a diverse community center that attracts people from all cultures, all united by their love of movement. For those lucky enough to find its gates tucked away among the busy shops of downtown Monterey Park, it was their evening home.
Chu returns almost every night now, no longer to dance but to bring fresh flowers and light another candle before sitting back again and contemplating the future of the room.
Chu used to dance nightly at the Star Ballroom or the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio, but she hasn’t been to a ballroom since filming began.
“I’m just not in the mood to dance right now,” she said.
While some in the community are waiting for the day the Star Ballroom reopens, taking it as a sign of resilience, owner Maria Liang said Wednesday it was too early to make a decision on whether or when the studio will reopen becomes.
“I’m still traumatized…I don’t know what to do,” Liang said.
“A lot of my teachers and patrons and students want to keep dancing. I’d love to keep giving them the opportunity, but right now…I can’t focus. I’m still shocked. I can’t tell you what I intend to do.”
With a passion for dance and a love for the community that the studio has built over its decades as a dance staple in the San Gabriel Valley, Liang purchased the Star Ballroom in 2013 and became the sole owner in 2017.
She ran the studio with her 13-year dance and business partner Ming Wei Ma, who was killed in the shooting. Mr. Ma, as he was affectionately known by other dancers, was a very popular pillar of the community who said his goal was to bring people together through dance.
“He was very passionate about the business and we were good friends and he was retired. The studio was like home,” Liang said. “Mr. Ma, he was like my right hand (man). His death will have a big impact on my decision.”
Within a week of filming, the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio — where 26-year-old Brandon Tsay disarmed the gunman after the attack on the Star Ballroom — reopened its doors and is now getting about half the clientele as before.
Brenda Tsay, who runs Lai Lai Studio with her brother Brandon, said they made the decision to reopen after receiving calls from regulars, though many familiar faces have yet to return.
“Even people who were there that night said to me, ‘Please don’t stop, please don’t shut up,'” Tsay said. “We knew there were some people who still wanted to dance. Dancing is a happy thing, it’s a healing thing and it keeps you young. Dancing can be an outlet to get us out of this depression.”
She said she was determined to continue the business for her mother, who loved dancing and was dying of cancer.
“We’ve been able to get through so many different things over the years — that’s a bad thing that happened to us and it made national headlines, but COVID was a global thing and we got through it,” Tsay said. “I don’t want to give that up, I don’t want to have this place shut down because of a bad man.”
However, Liang said she doesn’t know how many people want to return to her Studio since it became a crime scene.
Though she hasn’t danced yet, Chu says she tries to go out almost every night because she doesn’t want the fear of another tragedy to take over her life.
“You can’t let that stop you or scare you,” she said. “A plane can fall on you, even if you stay in your house, you have to live life.”
But despite the central role dance and the Star Ballroom studio played in her life and community, Chu said she too doesn’t know how anyone will return now.
“I think it’s going to be a long time before people want to come back,” she said. “They are traumatized.”
Reporter Linh Tat contributed to this story.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/02/monterey-park-leaders-weigh-permanent-memorial-with-future-of-star-ballroom-dance-studio-uncertain/ Monterey Park leaders consider permanent monument, with future of Star Ballroom Dance Studio uncertain – Orange County Register