Hailed by the New York Times as “startlingly imaginative”, Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) creates interdisciplinary, cross-cultural performance for forward-looking audiences. Each work by Artistic Director Shen Wei develops an original dance vocabulary incorporating visual and storytelling elements from the theater, Chinese opera, Eastern philosophy, traditional and contemporary visual art, and sculpture. The result, at turns figurative and abstract, combines performance with strong scenic elements to create a “fascinating fantasy in movement” (Sydney Herald Sun).
In the nine short years since its inception at the American Dance Festival (ADF), SWDA has assumed a position among the top tier of dance ensembles worldwide. In addition to repeated engagements at ADF (2000-2009), Lincoln Center Festival (2003-2005, 2007, 2009), the Venice Biennale (2003, 2005), Los Angeles Music Center (2004, 2007), Het Muziektheater Amsterdam (2003, 2005, 2007), and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2005, 2007, 2008) the company continues to perform at premier festivals around the world, from Spoleto to Jacob’s Pillow, Edinburgh to Rome, Montpellier to Hong Kong, Mexico City to Sydney.
For its work, SWDA has been recognized worldwide. In 2008, Shen Wei and the company were commissioned by the Beijing Organizing Committee to develop material for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on August 8, 2008. Shen Wei has likewise been commissioned by the American Dance Festival nine times; by Lincoln Center Festival; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; New York City Opera; Het Muziktheater Amsterdam; and Alvin Ailey II, among many others. In May 2007, the company began a five-year residency at the Kennedy Center; in June of the same year, it gave the first dance performances at Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall in Los Angeles; in July,it returned to Lincoln Center Festival for the fourth time in five years; and in September, Shen Wei was awarded both MacArthur and US Artist Fellowships. In 2005, the company received Australia’s Helpmann Award for Best Ballet or Dance Work for its four sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House and in 2001 and 2003 was named one of the top ten best dance performances by the New York Times.
Director: Shen Wei
Choreographer, director, dancer, painter and designer, Shen Wei is widely recognized for his defining vision of an intercultural, interdisciplinary, utterly original mode of movement-based performance.
Shen Wei was born in a rural village of Hunan, China in 1968, year of the monkey. Son of Chinese opera professionals, he left home at the age of nine to study the form; he subsequently won a position at the Hunan State Xian Opera Company, with which he performed leading roles from 1984-1989. In 1991, he became a founding member—dancer and choreographer—of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first such company in China. Upon receiving a scholarship from the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab, Shen Wei moved to New York City in 1995.
The subsequent five years laid the groundwork for an international career that continues to this day. In 1995, the young émigré was approached to present his work by the American Dance Festival. At an exceptional, meteoric pace, his company entered the international touring circuit and, for the past eight years, has toured extensively on five continents. He has simultaneously created ten new works: Near the Terrace Part One (2000), Folding (2000), Behind Resonance (2001), Near the Terrace Part Two (2001), Rite of Spring (2003), Connect Transfer (2004), Second Visit to the Empress (2005), Map (2005), Re- Part One (2006), and Re- Part Two (2007). For each dance and opera work created with his company, Shen Wei also creates the sets, costumes, and make-up designs.
In August 2008, Shen Wei choreographed a piece for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Shen Wei is a 2007 MacArthur “Genius” and United States Artists Fellow. He has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and the American Dance Festival’s Ben Sommer Fellowship. Among others, Shen Wei also received the Nijinsky Award for Emerging Choreographer in 2004, Australia’s 2005 Helpmann Award for Best Ballet or Dance Work, and the 2006 Les Etoiles de Ballet, Palais des Festival, in Cannes, France. In China, he won first prize for both choreography and performance at the 1994 Inaugural National Modern Dance Competition. He has received nine commissions from the American Dance Festival (1995, 2000–2006, 2009), Het Muziektheater Amsterdam (2004 and 2007), Lincoln Center Festival (2005), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2007), New York City Opera (2005), and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater II, among others.