Jacob's Pillow and MASS MoCA to Welcome Shen Wei Dance Arts, 10/26-27
Jacob's Pillow Dance and MASS MoCA co-present inventive, contemporary ensemble Shen Wei Dance Arts on October 26 and 27 at MASS MoCA's Hunter Center for the Performing Arts. Led by Chinese-born American choreographer Shen Wei, the New York-based Dance Company blends his signature movement vocabulary with elements of film, theater, new media, and visual art. The program includes Shen Wei's interpretation of Rite of Spring (2003), in honor of the original production's 100th year, and striking new work Collective Measures (2013). The company's performances coincide with the final weekend of MASS MoCA's Xu Bing: Phoenix exhibit, an installation featuring two monumental birds fabricated wholly from materials reaped from construction sites in urban China.
Widely known for the international acclaim he received as principal choreographer for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shen Wei is revered for the broad span of his artistic vision as a prolific choreographer; stage director and painter; set, costume, lighting, and make-up designer.The Boston Globe has called his chromatic, movement-based spectacles "a vivid fusion of East and West, of Chinese opera and modern dance informed by the keen eye of a painter..." Born in Hunan, China, Shen Wei began training in Chinese opera at the age of nine. In I99I, he became a founding dancer and choreographer of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first modern Dance Company in China. He was awarded a scholarship from Nikolais-Louis Foundation for Dance and relocated to New York City in 1995. By July 200I, he established Shen Wei Dance Arts with performances of Near the Terrace at the American Dance Festival. Veneration for his talent has netTed Shen Wei many commissions and awards, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, the U.S. Artists Fellow Award, the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Nijinsky Award, Australia's Helpmann Award for Best Ballet or Dance Work, and two accolades from The New York Times for the creation of one of the year's best dance performances.Most recently, he was honored with the Audi 2012 Artist of the Year Award in Beijing, China. Jacob's Pillow Dance presenTed Shen Wei Dance Arts in the Ted Shawn Theatre in 2004 and 2006.
Marking the centenary of the Paris premiere of the original Rite of Spring, Shen Wei Dance Arts will perform its rendition of this seminal work as part of its two-part program. In response to Shen Wei's unique interpretation, Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times states, "The visual and emotional impact is overwhelming. [Shen Wei's] vision is painterly, mathematical and idiosyncratic. In this eclecticism, movement becomes pure: this Rite of Spring dazzles with its amazing objectivism, its reach beyond ordinary meaning." Also on the bill is the newly created Collective Measures- Shen Wei's salient exploration of personal separation within physical proximity of others. Meticulously designed, the work surpasses convention and delves into an uncommon, private space through its ambient sound score and surreal visual effects. American fashion designer Austin Scarlett, best known for his appearances on Project Runway's first season and 2012's Project Runway All Stars, designed and fabricated the costumes for this piece in collaboration with Shen Wei.
The gifted dancers of Shen Wei Dance Arts trained at North Carolina School for the Arts, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase. They have also performed with a variety of contemporary dance companies, including recent Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival artists BODYTRAFFIC and Abraham.In.Motion.
Shen Wei Dance Arts is a fitting farewell to Chinese sculptor Xu Bing's storied Phoenix exhibition. Called "glorious" and "stupendous" by The Boston Globe, the more than twenty-ton sculptures have been hanging from the rafters of MASS MoCA's signature, football field-size gallery since December 2012 in their first appearance outside of China. Fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in Beijing, the mythic birds bear witness to the complex interconnection between art, labor, and capital. Record numbers of museum visitors are mesmerized by "the birds," part of a larger exhibition of key works by Xu Bing, considered among the most important Chinese artists working today. Xu Bing: Phoenix is on view through October 27.
Through the financial support of the Irene Hunter Fund for Dance, Jacob's Pillow Dance and MASS MoCA continue to co-present performing arts programming, a partnership established when the museum was founded in 1999. The Pillow played a pivotal role in establishing MASS MoCA's role as a performing arts presenter and sponsored events at the museum site as early as 1995. In the spirit of deep collaboration, this partnership creates opportunities for visual and performing artists by encouraging cross-disciplinary experimentation; cultivates new dance audiences in the Berkshires by presenting innovative, high-quality performances; and expands the public's understanding of the creative process. Past co-presentations include Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, STREB, MOMIX, DanceBrazil, Stephen Petronio Company, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Armitage Gone! Dance, Cuba's Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Chunky Move, and, most recently, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal.