Shen Wei Dance Arts Spring Season Presents “Map”

Article By Pui See Tsang
Photo credit Niko

From April 29th -May 4th , 2014 at the Judson Memorial Church, the Shen Wei Dance Arts company performed a revival of “Map,” a stunning 2005 work by the Chinese-born choreographer Shen Wei. Choreographer, director, dancer, painter and designer, Shen Wei is internationally renowned for his bold movement-based spectacles. He is perhaps best known as the lead choreographer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which won acclaim worldwide.

Born in China’s Hunan province in 1968 as the son of Chinese Opera professionals, Shen Wei was trained since youth in the rigorous practices of Chinese opera performance, traditional Chinese ink painting and calligraphy. He was a performer with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company from 1984 to 1989. During his student years, he studied Western visual art, which inspired an interest in modern dance. At the age of 23, he became a founding member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first such company in China. In 1995, upon receiving a fellowship, he moved to NYC to study with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and was invited to present his work at the American Dance Festival. In July 2000, he founded Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) and his Company quickly entered the international touring circuit.

“Map,” which premiered in 2005, reveals a surprising side to Shen Wei’s often-contemplative imagination. Vigorous and witty, the dance is set to Steve Reich’s “The Desert Music.” The dance’s themes of rotation, bouncing and circularity are explored and re-explored through rapidly changing rhythms and spatial designs. The spinning, circling, and swirling kinetic joy of the performers is almost palpable.

The fusion of east (the meditative quality of the dancers’ inner focus) and west (the energetic originality of his choreography) is also present in Shen Wei’s paintings, which combine the gentle lyricism of the eastern landscape with the energy of western abstract expressionism. The solo is inspired both by the new explorations he is making in his paintings and the results of his ten-year quest to create a personal dance technique. He used his own body for research. The music for the 10-minute solo is by John Adams and Arvo Part.

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