Shen Wei Dance Arts

July 14, 2004

Shen Wei Dance Arts
Lincoln Center Festival, Alice Tully Hall

New York, New York

July 14,16,17, 2004

Reviewed by Rose Anne Thom


Two movement images dominate Shen Wei’s Connect Transfer: In the first, the four male and seven female dancers, one at a time, twist and knot themselves into dynamically shaped, often precariously balanced positions that they hold in stillness. Some individual sculptures gradually fasten themselves to others, constructing duos and trios, and the fused shapes then travel intact about the stage.

The second image, with its nonstop circularity and windmill arms that pull spiraling bodies down onto the stage, creates a dramatic contrast to the static effects of the first. Sinuous somersaults and wheeling legs propel the whirling bodies along the floor and then upward again. Here too, from solitary activity, dancers join forces in simultaneous activity, gently pushing and pulling or leaning on each other in a peculiarly weightless form of contact improvisation.

The FLUX Quartet, seated upstage right and left, and pianist Stephen Gosling, downstage right, all bordering Jennifer Tipton’s brightly lit white flooring, frame these intermingled images. Though the musicians are in close proximity to the dancers, there is nothing musical about the dancing itself. The costumes, black and gray configurations designed by Wei, hug their bodies and feet, and the dancers’ faces are inexplicably painted white.

Shen Wei intrudes briefly downstage left. Without face paint, cast in a golden light, he sculpts the air with fancy hand gestures and sensuous poses. Then he is gone.

When one swirling dancer swipes the floor with a paint-sodden glove, creating intersecting black circles on the white canvas of the floor, she provides a map of sorts for subsequent orbiting dancers. Again contrast is heightened by couples in horizontal lines traversing the space. One dancer among many slithering on the floor spreads red paint with his back. A woman with red paint on her feet dots the canvas with skittering runs and jumps. The floor painting, not the repetitive choreographed phrases, sustains interest. Wei returns for a reprise of his narcissistic solo, and predictably, the canvas is painted with more red, with purple and green, as each dancer takes an individually choreographed bow.

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