Fall for dance

Shen Wei Dance Arts performs two pieces as part of TAPAC’s new season.

Shen Wei Dance Arts - Folding (photo credit: Stephanie Berger)
Shen Wei Dance Arts - Folding
(photo credit: Stephanie Berger)
With the holiday season in fu, there is no escaping the fact that autumn has arrived. With the quiet relief of breezy nights comes a host of exciting programs for the next few months.
Next week, as part of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center’s new season, New York-based company Shen Wei Dance Arts will perform in Israel. The season will include performances by companies such as Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet Dance, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake.
Shen Wei Dance Arts was established in 2001 in New York City by choreographer, visual artist and director Shen Wei. While in Israel, the company will perform two works that were choreographed and designed by Shen – Folding and The Rite of Spring. This is Shen Wei’s second visit to Israel. His previous engagement took place in 2010 as part of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem.
Shen was born and raised in China. From an early age he studied dance. Upon graduating from school, he was invited to be part of the new Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first independent modern troupe in China. After several seasons with the company, he received a scholarship to travel to New York, where he resides to this day.
In 2001, Shen founded his company with a small group of dancers. Their premiere work, Near the Terrace, took audiences by storm at the American Dance Festival that year. Shen, a relative newcomer to the American dance milieu, had managed to bring together the canvas and the moving body. His subsequent productions continued to marry aesthetic sophistication with a unique movement language influenced by his Chinese roots.
Today, Shen teaches a technique of his own creation called Natural Body Development. This method encourages dancers to channel their breath and energy in order to approach movement in a more open way.
Folding, which has been a favorite in the company’s repertoire since its inception, was originally choreographed for the Guangdong Modern Dance Company. Danced to recordings of Buddhist chanting, the piece is as eerie as it is appealing. Powdered-faced performers dressed in red skirts and bare chests skitter on and off of the stage. Their movement intensifies the trance-inducing lull of the soundscape. Though over a decade old, Folding is timeless, evoking images from the dreary beginnings of the Butoh era in Japan.
The Rite of Spring offers a wonderful contrast to the otherworldly ambiance of Folding.
Here, Shen provides his dancers with plain costumes reminiscent of rehearsal clothing. There are no frills in the set design, only a maze of intersecting white lines on the floor. Fazil Say’s stripped-down recording of Stravinsky’s music for piano sends the dancers sprawling onto the floor and diving across the stage. There is no narrative in Shen’s interpretation of the 100-year-old ballet but rather an investigation of the connection between bodies dancing and notes played.
Shen Wei Dance Arts will perform at TAPAC from September 25 to 28. For tickets, visit www.israel-opera.co.il