Shen Wei Dance Arts performs at the Quick Center for the Arts


"Poetic, impudent, beautiful and strange." The New York Times

Shen Wei Dance"My work isn't about real life, or about being Western or Eastern. I'm exploring the unknown. I'm looking for a new way to communicate." This profoundly simple statement of purpose by Chinese-born dancer, choreographer, painter, and designer Shen Wei, is a window onto his stunning palate of movement, concept and design.

Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) first aroused the dance world's attention at the American Dance Festival in 2000, the year the company was established, and in 2003 it debuted in New York and triumphed at the Lincoln Center Festival. Now, this arresting company travels to Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts to perform on Saturday, May 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40, $35 and $30. The company members will participate in a post-show "Art to Heart" discussion.

Anna Kisselgoff, dance critic for The New York Times, wrote with admiration of the elusive and strikingly original quality of Shen's work, "Rare is the artist who fits into no recognizable category or fashionable aesthetic."

Born at the end of The Cultural Revolution in Hunan, China, Shen followed the path of his parents, traditional Chinese opera professionals, and at the age of nine he was sent from home to study opera at the Hunan Arts School. While in training, he continued the study of calligraphy and Chinese drawing and painting that he had begun as a small child. As a result of his broad and continuous exposure to many forms of art, his artistic vision is inclusive. Shen describes it thus, "I wasn't taught the arts separately, so I don't separate them in my work. Because I'm a painter, I want to see how dance movement relates to music and also how music and dance relate to visual art, to see how the three elements combine."

Shen not only choreographs and devises the concepts for his work, he is the costume, set and make-up designer as well. His creative process grows from the philosophy on which his company is founded, that is, new dance techniques and the natural development of physical vocabularies in relationship with music, theater, opera, visual arts and a unique hybridism of western and eastern cultures. In the last eight years, SWDA has been awarded many commissions from a variety of foundation and arts sources. Shen journeyed to Tibet for one such commission and the results of his immersion in the Tibetan religion and culture, as well as his feeling for the land and the people are seen in his work, "Re- (Part 1)" employing Ani Choying Dolma's recordings of Traditional Tibetan Chants as an integral component of the dance. While in Tibet, Shen produced photographs that have since been published in a book of photography called, "Tibet." The book was created to raise awareness of that region and its proceeds support a Tibetan school and orphanage.

His work, "Map," propelled by the rhythmic and melodic geography of Steve Reich's "The Desert Music," traces the contours of five "movement" maps that document the corporeal terrain of Shen's choreographic technique. Using solos, varying groups and full-company sections, "Map" builds on the power of the bodies and the pulse of the music to culminate in a masterful whirlwind of energy.

Shen's company has risen to international fame at a meteoric pace. In 2008, the company is scheduled to perform at leading halls on five continents, including in Beijing, Belgrade, Budapest, Dubai, Singapore, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York and the American Dance Festival, as well as in Uruguay, New Zealand and Brazil. Shen has been commissioned to choreograph part of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Tickets are available online at fairfield.edu/quick or by calling the Box Office at (203) 254-4010. The toll free number is 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, please visit the website at fairfield.edu/quick.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 15, 2008

Vol. 40, No. 244