Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Shen Wei Dance Arts will bring a stunning program of visually dynamic performances to Auditorium Theatre this weekend (photo courtesy of the Auditorium Theatre).
Shen Wei Dance Arts, the internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company led by MacArthur “Genius” Award-winning choreographer Shen Wei, makes its way to Chicago for the first time this weekend (September 23 and 24) at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Celebrated for its “gorgeous visual imagery” (The London Times) and “mesmerizing flow of invention” (The Boston Globe), the company gives Chicago debuts to two of Shen’s signature works, Folding and Rite of Spring.
Shen, who is a visual artist in addition to being a choreographer, is known for his awe-inspiring choreography for the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, for which he served as Lead Choreographer. To create works for his company, he draws on influences as varied as traditional Chinese culture and arts, European surrealism, and American modernism.
“It is an honor to present Shen Wei Dance Arts to Chicago for the first time,” noted Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “I am very excited to see this groundbreaking company bring the most cutting-edge contemporary dance to our National Historic Landmark stage."
Set to ethereal music by John Tavener and traditional Tibetan Buddhist Mahakala chants, Folding conjures up a dreamlike, surreal world. Against a vast backdrop painted by Shen Wei and modeled on an 18th century Chinese watercolor by Bada Shanren, dancers glide onto a white, glowing floor, amassing as though called to partake in an ancient ritual, familiar and yet unknown. The otherworldly costumes – dancers clad in long red and black skirts, donning conical headdresses and white make-up (all designed by Shen Wei) – heighten the sense of mystery and ritual throughout the piece. This seminal work by Shen was honored with a 2011 National Endowment of the Arts American Masterpiece Award.
Shen Wei’s groundbreaking Rite of Spring departs from the narrative of Nijinsky’s original ballet and offers a vigorous formal investigation of the pounding chords and rhythms in Stravinsky’s famed score, here performed to the composer's four-hand piano version of Le Sacre du Printemps, arranged by pianist Fazil Say. The dance takes place on a grey and white geometric floor painting. As the music builds momentum, the dancers spiral, spin, and cork-screw effortlessly to the floor.
Shen Wei Dance Arts has won worldwide acclaim for “amassing a body of works so strikingly original they defy categorization” (The Boston Globe). Since its founding in 2000, Shen Wei Dance Arts has performed in 140 cities, 33 countries, and five continents. The company has appeared at prestigious festivals and venues worldwide, including the the Lincoln Center Festival, BAM's Next Wave Festival, Festival de Danse, Cannes, Venice Biennales, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Sydney Opera House, the Tel Aviv Opera House, Sadler Wells, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kennedy Center.
For tickets to the performance or for more information, visit auditoriumtheatre.org.