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Shen Wei Dance Art's Season to Include World Premiere of Solo for Shen Wei and Revival of MAP, 4/29-5/4

Shen Wei Dance Art's Season to Include World Premiere of Solo for Shen Wei and Revival of MAP, 4/29-5/4

When Shen Wei decided to present a season at the Judson Memorial Church, April 29-May 4, he faced a problem. This famed lover of the grand scale would not be able to hang his set for "Map" performances, well, not if he wanted his audience seated on all four sides. However, Shen Wei Dance Arts' season, which also features the world premiere of a solo for the choreographer, shows that when there's a will, Shen Wei finds a way.

The solution: Hand-paint "Map's" gigantically gorgeous set onto balloons of differing shapes (triangles, cubes, spheres) and sizes (some as large as 12 feet). Suspended above the dancers, the balloons form a floating jigsaw puzzle, transforming the air above into an aerial installation with its own negative and positive space.

Premiered in 2005, "Map" reveals another surprising side to Shen Wei's often-contemplative imagination. Vigorous and witty, the dance is set to Steve Reich's "The Desert Music." The dance's themes of rotation, bouncing and circularity are explored and re-explored through rapidly changing rhythms and spatial designs. The spinning, circling, and swirling kinetic joy of the performers is palpable.

The fusion of east (the meditative quality of the dancers' inner focus) and west (the energetic originality of his choreography) is also in Shen Wei's paintings, which combine the gentle lyricism of the eastern landscape with the energy of western abstract expressionism. The solo is inspired both by the new explorations he is making in his paintings and the results of his ten-year quest to create a personal dance technique. He used his own body for research. The music for the 10-minute solo is by John Adams and Avro Part.

Choreographer, director, dancer, painter and designer, Shen Wei is internationally renowned for his boldly visual movement-based spectacles. He is perhaps best known as the lead choreographer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which won acclaim worldwide.

Admiration for his talent has earned Shen Wei numerous awards, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship (2007), the U.S. Artists Fellow award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Other accolades include: Australia's Helpmann Award; the Nijinsky Emerging Choreographer Award; the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leader Honor; the Algur H. Meadows Prize; and a 2012 New York City Center Choreography Fellowship. The impact of Shen Wei Dance Arts' premiere performances on the Chinese mainland in Beijing led to a host of awards for Shen Wei: the Audi-China 2012 Artist of the Year Award; the Artist of the Year at the GQ-China magazine's 2013 Man of the Year Awards; and most recently, the Chinese Innovator Award from the Wall Street Journal-China 2013.

Born in China's Hunan province in 1968, the son of Chinese Opera professionals, he was trained from youth in the rigorous practice of Chinese opera performance, traditional Chinese ink painting and calligraphy and was a performer with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company from 1984 to 1989. During his student years, he studied Western visual art, which propelled an interest in modern dance. In 1991, at the age of 23, he became a founding member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first such company in China. In 1995, upon receipt of a fellowship, he moved to NYC to study with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and was invited to present his work at the American Dance Festival. In July 2000, he founded Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) and his Company quickly entered the international touring circuit.

Since forming his Company, he has received numerous commissions to support his creative works for Shen Wei Dance Arts including multiple commissions from the American Dance Festival, Het Muziektheater, the Lincoln Center Festival and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Park Avenue Armory, Hong Kong's New Vision Arts Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival.

Shen Wei also created dances for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and choreographed the Rome Opera's production of Rossini's Moise et Pharaon, conducted by Ricardo Muti. Last spring, Shen Wei was commissioned to create a new work for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, and he choreographed, directed and designed a new production of Carmina Burana for the chorus, orchestra and ballet of Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy. The production, which included Shen Wei Dance Arts' dancers, premiered in July 2013 and toured to the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia in September of 2013.

Recently, his work as a visual artist and choreographer has entered into a new dialogue in a series of performative installations and site-specific works which have been presented at a number of museums and galleries including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the North Carolina Museum of Art; Collezione Maramotti in Italy; Mana Contemporary; and the Forum at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Recent company highlights include performances at the Festival de Danse in Cannes, France; the Ludwigshafen Festival in Germany; Festival Internacional de Artes Escénicas of Lima in Peru; the Ravenna Festival in Italy; week-long engagements at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; a three-city tour of Brazil; and a three-week tour to China with performances at Hong Kong's New Vision Arts Festival and Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts. The performances in Beijing marked the first time an émigré choreographer was invited to bring his company back to the Chinese Mainland. Upcoming performances include the Dallas Opera House in Texas; the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro in Bogotá, Columbia; the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow, Russia; the Mariinsky II in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Shanghai International Arts Festival in China; and Miami/Art Basel in conjunction with Miami Dade College.

The Judson Memorial Church is located at 55 Washington Square South, New York City

Performance days and times are: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 8:00 PM; Wednesday, April 30 at 8:00 PM; Thursday, May 1 at 7:00 PM; Friday, May 2 at 8:00 PM; Saturday, May 3 at 8:00 PM; and Sunday, May 4 at 7:30 PM. Tickets, which are $25-$60, are available at 866-811-4111 or shenweidancearts.org. Tickets to the May 1st Benefit are available at 212-962-1113.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger

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