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Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Sep 29, 2004 3:55 am ]
Post subject:  Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

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TICKETS: 020 7863 8000

After its astounding success in New York, Shen Wei Dance Arts now makes its first visit to the UK. A founder member of China’s first modern dance company, Shen Wei produces startling and absorbing pieces, effortlessly combining his passion for dance with his skills as a filmmaker, painter and calligrapher.

Rite of Spring is performed on a vast abstract water-colour floor painting by Shen Wei. The dancers surge, twist and turn, changing course on a knife edge as the two-piano version of Stravinsky’s greatest score propels them on, saturating the work like paint on a canvas.

In Folding, Shen Wei links the act of folding paper to the folding of bodies, as mysterious figures with elongated heads and draped in rich red and black robes traverse the stage to the sounds of Buddhist chanting and the haunting melodies of John Taverner.

"If there is something to write home about in the dance world, it is the startlingly imaginative work of the Chinese-born choreographer Shen Wei…modern dance’s most original new talent."
The New York Times

Jerwood Proms:
Stand Up For Dance for only £5.
Click here for more details.
Wed 13 Oct
Free to ticket holders after the performance.

<small>[ 29 September 2004, 08:02 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Oct 15, 2004 10:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

Elizabeth Schwyzer posted 14 October 2004 11:12 AM
Shen Wei Dance Arts
"Rite of Spring" and "Folding"

Sadler’s Wells, London
October 12, 2004

Wei To Go

By Elizabeth Schwyzer

Composed in1913 for Vaslav Nijinski’s riot-inducing ballet, Igor Stravinski’s Rite of Spring has been used by countless choreographers since that time, in dance productions large and small. Its dissonant chords and haunting harmonies have proved to have lasting appeal to dance makers. Whether Stravinski himself would approve of many or any of these later interpretations of his music, we’ll never know, and maybe it doesn’t matter. But in an era when almost every classical and classic melody you’d care to name has been used as the soundtrack for a television advertisement, artists need a good reason to replay the same tunes.

Chinese contemporary dance choreographer Shen Wei was inspired by “the rich and evocative texture” of Stravinski’s masterpiece to create his own Rite of Spring: an abstract movement study set to the four-handed piano version of the score. At times it becomes a Morris-esque musical translation: one dancer shuffling her feet to the chugging chords, another leaping in time with the banging keys. In other sections, it reads as a busy compendium of all of his dancers’ styles—each contributing a personal twist on the common themes of suspension, initiation, torsion and release. In black socks they scoot and slide across the fabric-covered stage, their feet creating a dampened screeching. When the stage is full of moving bodies, the effect is too demanding on the eye, refusing to knit together the way the music does. It’s on an individual level that the dance is most stunning; despite their differences, each dancer is absolutely precise. Their severe directionality and whipping limbs, as well as their rag-doll looseness, are exquisitely well controlled.

If Rite of Spring fails to resolve into a finished work, Folding is a more fully realised canvas where Wei’s training in the visual arts shines through. Against a dazzling wash of radiant blue light, the pale, androgynous torsos and conical heads of the dancers’ costumes are streaks of white; their skirts, vivid red splashes. Set to the chanting of Tibetan Buddhist monks and the spacious, evocative music of John Tavener, Folding is peppered with moments of extraordinary beauty, especially at its most spare, simple moments. In this wide open, shimmering landscape, two unearthly figures walking in perfect time with one another is enough to stun. As the piece progresses, though, such meditative simplicity gives way to long-winded canons and awkward, distracting side notes (Why the figure in full-body Lycra cat suit, tumbling in slow motion across the floor? Why the naked legs downstage?) that detract from the strength of the simplest images.

In a programme where these two works are shown together, Wei’s stylistic habits seem somewhat formulaic: both pieces begin with a blank stage, and fill slowly as figures enter one or two at a time. Both pieces incorporate the same surreal walk—the upper body hovering above the shortened steps of fast-moving feet. Both pieces are full of the choreographic device of flocking, where dancers come together in groups to follow the path charted by a leader, bending and swaying like a flock of flying birds. In both pieces, the dancers’ bodies are grease-painted white, their faces are blank and expressionless, and their arms held at a rigid angle, elbows pointing backwards like action-figure dolls. Whether all these similarities between dances constitute a pleasing continuity of style or a reliance on familiar patterns is probably a matter of taste—I tend to prefer less predictability. On the length of the ovation alone, I’d guess the audience felt differently. One thing is for sure: Wei knows how to create at beautiful composition. I’d like to see the fruits of his collaboration with a new composer who can paint with music as well as Wei can paint with stage design and movement.

Elizabeth Schwyzer
Dancer and Dance Writer

<small>[ 15 October 2004, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Oct 15, 2004 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

Shen Wei Dance Sadler's Wells, London

the Financial Times

We bring so much baggage of prior performances to any staging of the Rite that this non-specific view, with its very different responses, seems to let the score down by denying its dramatic scheme.

Author:  kurinuku [ Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

Savage rhythms spark half-hearted climaxes

the Daily Telegraph

Wei's version is acclaimed for its action-painting qualities, but where a splatter and a smudge, with a large caption, might set the imagination going in paint, it won't be enough in dance.

Author:  kurinuku [ Sun Oct 17, 2004 12:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

It's choreography - in the shape of a very large phone bill

The Observer

Shen Wei, ..., is one of a number of choreographers who regard their work as an art installation. His Rite of Spring takes place on a floor painting (his own); in Folding , the second half of the double bill, the backdrop is a blown-up version of an 18th-century Chinese watercolour.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Oct 17, 2004 2:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

To baldly go...
...where too many others have gone before. Shen Wei gets nowhere with The Rite of Spring, by David Dougill for The Sunday Times:

It would be sacrilegious to say that there are times when I wish Stravinsky had not written The Rite of Spring. So, let me put it another way: I wish this landmark of modern music hadn’t been seized on by quite so many choreographers. The latest interpretation to reach our shores opened a double bill by Shen Wei Dance Arts, from New York, at Sadler’s Wells last Tuesday for the Dance Umbrella festival.
Before settling in the USA, Shen Wei performed in Chinese opera in his native Hunan province and was a founder member of China’s first modern-dance company. His choreography for his own troupe, which he formed four years ago, draws on a fusion of eastern and western cultures.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Oct 18, 2004 1:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

Shen Wei
By Donald Hutera for The Times

CHOREOGRAPHING to Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring is like climbing Mount Everest. It is a dancemaker’s rite of passage, and a huge challenge.

It was with a piece of dance to this daunting music that the New York-based Shen Wei made his UK debut as part of Dance Umbrella. A brave move, but rumour had it that the Chinese-born choreographer, dancer and artist, now in his mid-thirties, is endowed with a fearless vision.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Oct 29, 2004 5:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Shen Wei Dance Arts: 12 & 13 October

Rite of Spring/Folding
By Katie Phillips for The Stage

Shen Wei is concerned with the language of dance in close collaboration with visual art and music. In his Rite of Spring, the dancers walk like foot-bound chess figures across a huge ephemeral board, the black and white crosses blurred into smudges of grey. As they scurry from point to point, it becomes evident that rather than searching out Stravinsky’s story, Wei has abstracted the simple piano score and created movement dynamics and pathways to represent the symbols of Chinese characters.

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