Shen Wei Dance Arts -
When dance paints movement
by Rosella Simonari
November 26 , 2005 -- Teatro Rossini, Civitanova, Italy
A group of bodies intertwined together, one dancer has her chin touching the knee of another dancer. Two stand back to back with their arms up, another two are linked via their legs and feet. These are some of the snapshots emerging from ‘Connect Transfer,’ one of the latest works by choreographer, dancer and painter Shen Wei, and they well express his multidisciplinary background. He grew up studying Chinese opera, and performed with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company as well as with The Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first Chinese company of its kind. He has also had his paintings exhibited in New York and Hong Kong. As he states, “I wasn’t taught the arts separately, so I don’t separate them in my work.” And that is why in his pieces he takes care of the choreography, the costumes, the set and the make-up design. Even though his company was born in 2000, he has already achieved international recognition with works such as ‘The Rite of Spring’ and ‘Folding.’
In ’Connect Transfer,’ dance and painting interact in a very evocative manner -- it is the dancers themselves who paint the white stage with their moving bodies. Dressed in black or grey adherent costumes, they enter performing some movements, walk away, then enter again. There is no music until the dancing bodies are well entangled in unusual body poses. These poses do not last for long, and the dancers disentangle themselves through slow movements so that the audience becomes aware, not only of the connection, but also of the movement transfer involved in the dance phrases.
In dance, as in many ordinary body movements, there is a weight transfer. When we walk we commonly transfer our weight from one leg to the other. In this piece it looks as if the question of transfer not only refers to physical weight, but also to energy flow. As Wei himself said, with ‘Connect Transfer’ he tried “to see the circular, cumulative energies that fuse movement to paint to light to sound in space and time.”
And the energy seems to spring from the choreography, particularly when the dancers start to paint the stage-canvas. It comes as a surprise: one of them enters the stage and after moving down on the stage, he performs circular movements wearing a special glove on one of his hands. Movement paints the space but it does not leave any tangible trace -- in this case, however, a mark is being left. Others are added in various colours, black, blue, green and red. The result is an abstract painting whose fragments will be sold in future performances in order to keep a connection with the previous one – here, connection is a concept that refers not just to the dancing bodies on stage but also to their relationship with the visual elements in the piece and with the audience.
Wei’s movement approach is very fluid, as his own solo piece demonstrates with circular arm movements downstage left. And while there are often movements performed on the floor, but the dancers’ bodies always have an athletic sense of lightness.
‘Connect Transfer’ is a very interesting work and it was welcomed by the Civitanova Danza audience. There was also a special effort from the organisers of the festival, who made it possible for the audience in the stalls to appreciate the visual quality of the piece by placing a projection of the view from above on a screen beside the stage so that the artistic conception would not be lost to those watching what was taking place from floor level.
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