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 Post subject: Shen Wei Shows Northeast Premiere of His Newest Work
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 4:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 6883
Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Press Contact and Photos: French Clements
413.243.9919 x29 or

For a printable PDF version of this release, visit ... ceArts.pdf


Becket, MA-The recipient of overwhelming acclaim from press and audiences,
Shen Wei Dance Arts arrives at Jacob's Pillow for a series of performances
in the Ted Shawn Theatre, August 9-13. A modern-day Renaissance man,
Artistic Director Shen Wei was born in China, where, following his rigorous
training in the traditional visual and performing arts, he became a founding
member of the country's first modern dance company. Now a major presence in
America, he makes works of breadth and beauty which possess a unique
accessibility for audiences new to modern dance, visual art, or the union of
the two. The company shows an excerpt from Shen's meticulously composed
Map, as well as Re-, a new work inspired by his own recent travels through
Tibet and seen in the Northeast for the first time since its well-received
premiere in July. Wrote Paul Horsley of the Kansas City Star recently,
"Shen Wei's works are more fun and more challenging than much of what our
big-name choreographers are putting out. They remind us that the future of
American culture has always found renewal in the fresh viewpoints that
immigrants bring." For a glimpse of Shen Wei's choreography, watch the 2006
season overview video at

Performance and Ticket Information for Shen Wei Dance Arts: Evening
performances are Wednesday, August 9 through Saturday, August 12 at 8pm,
with matinées on Saturday, August 12 and Sunday, August 13 at 2pm. Tickets
are $50 each, with a 10% discount available for seniors, students, and youth
age 13 and under. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at
413.243.0745, faxing orders to 413.243.0749, or ordering online at Jacob's Pillow is located on George Carter Road in
Becket, MA, 10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2.

Since the heaps of attention paid to his company since its debut in 2000,
Shen has tried to make each piece totally different from its predecessor-and
from any other existing stage works-and he continues to break new ground in
today's dance scene for his unprecedented sense of timelessness and
iconoclasm. Drawing from his training in traditional Chinese opera, his
works comprise painting, set and costume design, calligraphy, and filmmaking
to unite the contemporary relevance of a New York-based dance group with a
haunting, majestic take on Asian aesthetics. The terminology appropriate to
descriptions of more clear-cut genres seems not to suffice for critics
describing his multidisciplinary work; it's apparently more definable by
associations and superlatives. As Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times
pointed out in a review of his work Connect Transfer, "Rare is the artist
who fits into no recognizable category or fashionable aesthetic…Mr. Shen
works out of a sensibility that owes nothing to systems of thought that have
lingered in American postmodern dance since the 1960's. The basic training
of Chinese opera explains certain extraordinary movements that his dancers,
mostly American, have learned to do with such fearlessness on the floor. Mr.
Shen rarely uses a conventional dance step, but, paradoxically, it was a
Chinese dancer, Hou Ying, who had the audience gasping at the speed of her
chaîné turns with windmill arms… Connect Transfer is an ingenious synthesis
of dance, music and visual art, each element unpredictably linked to
another." Also of Connect Transfer, Karen Campbell of the Boston Globe
wrote, "Limbs slice and slash, often rotating almost backward from
fantastically flexible hips and shoulders. Moments of solitary lyricism and
breathtaking suspension contrast with sections of powerful massed
Made just this spring and early summer, Re- has already gained critical
acclaim for its rousing atmosphere and remarkable set piece, designed as
usual by Shen himself. Made of innumerable shards of blue and white paper
(colors signifying in Tibetan culture Nirvana and purity respectively), the
design, a mandala, hints at the philosophies of regeneration and completion
so key to Eastern religions, and to Tibetan Buddhism in particular. A
mandala (Sanskrit for "circle" or "completion") is traditionally constructed
with mesmerizing attention to detail, generally out of colored sand. Its
symbolic, meditative purpose is not considered fulfilled until its
destruction by a monk, often the one who made it. The dance's haunting
score of Buddhist chants is sung by a Nepalese nun in exile in Tibet,
Choying Drolma. The work's four dancers move with eye-catching immediacy
and a poignant sense of longing, inspiring a reviewer to spy an allusion to
Shen's concept of political and personal exile, going on to point out that
the work holds "an eerie moment of connection, of communion, between the
dancers on stage and some entity or vision that, while good, remains at a
distance…a story of order descending into chaos-of patterns shattered,
atomized and then dispersed." (Byron Woods, The Independent).
>From 2005 and recalling Connect Transfer in its use of the body's dynamism,
the totally abstract Map is a window into the choreographer's art. The
piece's inspiration comes from Steve Reich's rigorous yet affecting 1984
work "The Desert Music," full of African and Asian rhythms, Hebrew melody,
and Reich's trademark propulsion. A reviewer for The New York Times noted
of the music following its premiere that for its "poetic intent, Mr. Reich's
piece attains the scope of a Mahler symphony." Just as Reich conjures a
world of emotions and tonal colors with a few patterns and instruments, Shen
has assigned himself a compositional challenge and worked with thrilling
creativity toward the result. The dance's seven sections (five are seen
here) each work in a different mode of movement, including bouncing,
rolling, and rotating, then are reassembled for the whirlwind finale, a
symphony of movement on its own.

>From China's south-central Hunan province, Shen Wei performed with the Hunan
State Xian Opera Company from 1984-89 before becoming a founding member of
China's pioneering ensemble, the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, where he
danced from 1991-94. In 1995, when Shen arrived in New York, he struggled
to establish himself as an artist while learning English and overcoming
financial barriers. He was even forced to undergo open-heart surgery for a
congenital condition. Since founding Shen Wei Dance Arts in 2000, Shen has
received broad acclaim for his work at numerous international dance
festivals and been commissioned by many groups, including the American Dance
Festival, Ailey II, and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company. In 2000, he
received a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a
fellowship from the American Dance Festival, and in 2001, a John Simon
Guggenheim Fellowship. Shen has also had various visual art exhibits in New
York and Hong Kong. By now, through his totally unique concept of how
beautiful art can be (whether by making dances, painting backdrops, or
designing set pieces), he is determined to take contemporary expression in a
whole new direction.

Free Events at the Pillow This Week
PillowTalks in Blake's Barn: On Wednesday, August 9, Karina Epperlein, the
director of the film Phoenix Dance, shows and discusses her remarkable
documentary on the collaboration between choreographer Alonzo King and the
late Homer Avila (a prominent modern dancer and former Pillow student).
Saturday, August 12, the prodigiously creative Richard Move discusses his
newest company venture MoveOpolis!, and gives insight into his career.

Inside/Out performances at 6:30pm: Wednesday, August 9, Richard Move's
latest project, MoveOpolis!, shows theatrical, unique work in a Doris Duke
Studio Theatre preview. Thursday, August 10, TAKE Dance Company, led by
former Paul Taylor dancer Takehiro Ueyama, shows fearless, solemn works in
the tradition of his mentors. Friday, August 11, audiences will see the
enthusiastic, high-kicking style that has made Lula Washington Dance Theatre
a favorite of the Los Angeles dance scene. Saturday, August 12, dancers in
Jazz program of The School at Jacob's Pillow show work from a range of
Broadway stars.

Ongoing Free Events include: Ted Shawn First, the first overview exhibition
ever mounted at the Pillow on the Festival's influential founder, in Blake's
Barn; Philip Trager: A Pillow Retrospective, featuring insightful images
from this master of portraiture, in the Ted Shawn Theatre lobby; Basil
Childers, with work from a rising star of the international dance
photography scene, in the Doris Duke Studio Theatre lobby; Picturing Shawn,
a survey of two-dimensional depictions of the man by diverse artists, in the
Reading Room at Blake's Barn; and the latest Highlights of the Collection,
on view in the venerable Bakalar Studio whenever rehearsals and classes are
not in session.

Jacob's Pillow is located in the town of Becket in the Berkshire Hills of
Western Massachusetts. The Pillow was originally the Carter family farm in
the 1700s, and in the 1800s served as a station on the Underground Railroad.
Its pioneering spirit was furthered in 1933, when legendary dancer, teacher,
and choreographer Ted Shawn founded the Festival as a showcase for his
company of Men Dancers and as a home for dance in the U.S.

Jacob's Pillow now encompasses an acclaimed international Festival (the
first and longest-running dance festival in the U.S.), a professional
School, rare and extensive Archives open to the public free of charge, an
Intern Program, year-round Community Programs, and a Creative Development
Residency program. The historic site includes 161 acres, 31 buildings,
three unique stages (including the first theater in the U.S. built
specifically for dance), three dance studios, exhibition spaces,
restaurants, the Pillow Store, residential housing, administrative offices,
a health center, gardens, trails, and woodlands.

The Pillow presents dance from all over the world in all forms, styles, and
traditions, plus approximately 200 free events each season, including
performances, lectures, tours, film showings, exhibits, and talks with
artists from all over the world, which attract approximately 80,000 visitors

Pillow Founder Ted Shawn was instrumental in beginning the careers of Martha
Graham and Jack Cole, and the Pillow has continued this mentoring role by
providing early opportunities to artists such as Alvin Ailey, José Limón,
and Mark Morris. Companies such as Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Parsons
Dance Company have been seen at the Pillow for the first time anywhere, and
international groups such as The Royal Danish Ballet and Nederlands Dans
Theater have made their U.S. debuts here. World premieres have been
commissioned from masters such as Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor, and
legendary artists such as Margot Fonteyn and Mikhail Baryshnikov have been
showcased in new works.

In 2003, Jacob's Pillow was declared a National Historic Landmark by the
federal government as "an exceptional cultural venue that holds value for
all Americans." It is the first and only dance entity in the U.S. to
achieve this honor. The Pillow looks forward to celebrating its 75th
anniversary in 2007, and has launched its first endowment campaign, The Fund
for Jacob's Pillow, to help ensure its eminence and longevity for others to
enjoy in years to come.

Major support for Jacob's Pillow, as of April 2006, has been provided by:
The Dana Foundation; The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; Francis Alexander
Family Fund; The Harkness Foundation for Dance; The William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation; The Leir Charitable Trusts in memory of Henry J. Leir;
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Mertz Gilmore Foundation; Evelyn Stefansson
Nef Foundation; The William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation; The
Prospect Hill Foundation; The Ira M. Resnick Foundation; The Ridgefield
Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Starr Foundation;
Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency; National Endowment for the
Arts; U.S. Department of Education; ALEX®; Altria Group, Inc.; American
Express Philanthropic Program, Ameriprise Financial, Inc.; Berkshire Bank
Foundation; Canon, U.S.A., Inc.; TD Banknorth Charitable Foundation; The
Pillow Business Alliance; and Jacob's Pillow Members.

Jacob's Pillow is funded in part by the National Dance Project of the New
England Foundation for the Arts, with lead funding from Doris Duke
Charitable Foundation. Additional funding provided by The Ford Foundation
and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Major endowment support is provided by The Barrington Foundation, Inc.; The
William Randolph Hearst Foundation; Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state
agency; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Onota Foundation; The Prospect Hill
Foundation; and the Talented Students in the Arts Initiative, a
collaboration of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Surdna
Foundation; and Jacob's Pillow Members.

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