The multiple award-winning talents of Shen Wei, whose choreography has been seen in major venues and festivals throughout the world and whose paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, converge on BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House stage in the world premiere of “Neither,” October 5-8.
When Shen Wei first heard “Neither” over a decade ago, he immediately wanted to use Samuel Beckett and Morton Feldman’s radical 1977 opera for a dance. It then took the choreographer another ten years to feel ready for the challenge of a work that both composer and librettist were originally reluctant to create; they’d claimed to detest opera. The result, however, which was premiered by the Rome Opera, is a haunting, emotional and spiritual tour de force of sound and text.
For his version of “Neither,” commissioned by BAM’s 2016 Next Wave Festival, Shen Wei’s stage design, a series of mysteriously opening and closing doors suffused with Jennifer Tipton’s quietly gleaming light, create an indeterminate space in which time and place are suspended.
At times, Shen Wei’s eight dancers move as communal, supportive forces, connected through their limbs so they almost appear as a single organism. At others, they are separate, desolate creatures, alone in their spheres of space and light.
Imaginatively responding to the changing aural and poetic landscape of Feldman’s music and Beckett’s 16-line libretto, Shen Wei’s choreography transforms the inner struggle of an uneven journey from darkness into potential light. With his choreographic addition to the opera, Shen Wei adds yet another poetic and philosophical layer of possibility to an opera resonant with universal power and relevance.
Following Shen Wei Dance Art’s BAM engagement, the company will make a three week tour of China, November 2 – 20, where it will perform at Shanghai’s Grand Theatre as part of the Shanghai International Performing Arts Festival, Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts as part of NCPA’s 2016 Dance Festival, and Zhuhai’s Opera House.
Recent Company engagements include performances at Detroit’s Music Hall; Tucson’s Centennial Hall; a two-week creative and performance residency at Teatro Ariosto in Reggio Emilia, Italy; Works & Process at the Guggenheim, including performances in the Museum’s iconic Rotunda; the premiere of a site-specific work on the sprawling rooftops of Asia Society Hong Kong Center during Art Basel-Hong Kong; and performances in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg.
ABOUT SHEN WEI
The recipient of numerous awards, including a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship (2007), the U.S. Artists Fellow award, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Australia’s Helpmann Award, the Nijinsky Emerging Choreographer Award, the Algur H. Meadows Prize, Les Etoiles de Ballet Award, (Ballet2000 Magazine), and a 2012 New York City Center Choreography Fellowship, Shen Wei was also honored with the Audi-China 2012 Artist of the Year Award; GQ-China 2013 Artist of the Year Award; and the 2013 Chinese Innovator Award from The Wall Street Journal-China.
Shen Wei has received 23 commissions from major presenting institutions to support his creative work, 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, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, the Edinburgh International Festival, and, most recently, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College.
Born in China’s Hunan province in 1968, the son of Chinese Opera professionals, Shen Wei 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 1989, he began modern dance training at the American Dance Festival’s (ADF) program at the Guangdong Dance Academy in China. In 1991, at the age of 23, he became a founding member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the rst first such company in China. Upon receipt of a fellowship, he moved to New York City in 1995 to study with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and, in the same year, was invited to create 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.
The lead choreographer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shen Wei has 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. In 2013, 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, with his Company performing in leading roles.
Recently, his work as a visual artist and choreographer has entered into a new dialogue in a series of performative installations and site-speci c 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, the Forum at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Rockbund Museum of Art in Shanghai; MDC Museum of Art+Design in Miami and Asia Society Hong Kong Center.
As a painter, Shen Wei has had solo exhibitions in leading galleries and museums: the Chambers Fine Art Gallery (New York); the Crow Collection of Asian Art (Dallas); the Hong Kong Cultural Center; and the Tucson Museum of Art. This past fall, he participated in a group show at London’s Fine Art Society: Performance & Remnant. Shen Wei: In Black, White and Gray, a solo exhibition featuring 11 of Shen Wei’s large-scale paintings, was shown at the MDC Museum of Art+Design in Miami (Dec. 2014-Feb. 2015) and was featured during Art Basel/Miami Beach 2014. Shen Wei: Dance Strokes, an exhibition of Shen Wei’s paintings in conjunction with site-specific performances, opened at Asia Society Hong Kong Center during Art Basel/Hong Kong and ran March 20 to April 4, 2016.
Neither is commissioned by BAM and co-commissioned by the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College.
Support for the creation of Neither was provided with lead funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the US-China Cultural Institute, a Cultural Associate of the Committee of 100, Shirley Young, Chair; the SHS Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional institutional support was provided by the Irwin S. Scherzer Foundation, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and La Fondazione I Teatri di Reggio Emilia (Italy).
Support for Shen Wei Dance Arts’ programs and activities is provided by the SHS Foundation, the Winston Foundation, the Shubert Foundation, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Hyde Watson Foundation, the Angel Shine Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and many generous individuals.