Shen Wei Dance Arts Makes Center for the Arts Appearance

Posted: April 19, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Shen Wei Dance Arts seeks a new approach to movement and the body. The choreography, at turns representational and abstract, incorporates Eastern and Western aesthetics with strong scenic elements to create a painterly, mise-en-scene.

Shen Wei Dance Arts will perform its signature work, “Rite of Spring” and the spellbinding “Folding” on Saturday, May 5, at 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts. A pre-performance discussion, free to ticket holders, will begin at 7:15 p.m. on the hall’s Grand Tier.

Set to the four-hand piano version of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” performed by Fazil Say, Shen Wei’s dance, “Rite of Spring,” is a full-company work that originally premiered in 2003. The choreographer was enthralled by the score’s rich evocative texture.

“The Stravinsky score is constructed with both technical complexity and narrative passion,” explains Shen Wei. “However, in keeping with my interest in abstraction, it is only the melodic and rhythmic qualities of the music, rather than the story it tells, which inform the choice of movement vocabulary. After listening closely to the score, I identified several body systems and movement ideas that matched the quality found in the music.”

cha Wei's
“Rite of Spring”
Photo by Bruce R. Feeley

Shen Wei’s dancers move through a series of structured improvisations and movement strategy, with the piece becoming, according to the choreographer, “a set structure with a balance between movement exactitude and movement intuition.”

“Folding” was commissioned by the Guangdong Modern Dance Company — Shen Wei’s first work with them since leaving China in 1995. The dance combines traditional Tibetan Mahakala Buddhist chants with the ethereal melodies of John Tavener, set against an enormous, hand-painted rendition of an 18th-century Chinese watercolor by Bada Shanren.

In addition to repeated engagements at the American Dance Festival, Lincoln Center Festival and the Venice Biennale, Shen Wei Dance Arts has, in its six-year history, appeared in renowned festivals in the United States and around the world.

Choreographer, dancer, painter and designer, Shen Wei was born in Hunan, China. He studied Chinese opera from the age of nine, worked with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company from 1984-89, and was an original member — dancer and choreographer — of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first such modern dance company in China.

As a visual artist independent of the dance company, Shen Wei is a painter, designer and filmmaker. His paintings have been exhibited in New York and Hong Kong; a series of paintings created in conjunction with “Rite of Spring” were first exhibited as part of the company’s New York debut at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2003.

For each dance and opera work choreographed for his company, Shen Wei also creates the sets, costumes and make-up designs.

Tickets are $44, $36 and $22. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

Write to at