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Shen Wei: Reflections on Re I III II

by Wendy Goldberg
July 13, 2009
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456
Re I, a spiritual journey of reawakening at the tip of a Tibet mountaintop, is mesmerizing with its meditative power. The twelve dancers create a blue and white Mandala on the stage floor, moving through it with lyrical purity. The dancers carve the air with swan swooning torsos, long lifted legs, and slicing sharp arms.

Then they swoop and swoosh through the careful design, sending the tiny bits of paper swirling through the air, like a hushed snowfall. The traditional Tibetan chants enhance the religious aura of Re I, as the dancers lunge, rise and twirl through the confetti of paper, symbolizing the blending of purity (white bits), with Nirvana (the blue bits).

The sound of the dancers feet etching through the paper-strewn stage creates the sense of a calm snow in the presence of quiet, ancient stone where the mountain pierces the uppermost clouds. The dancers move individually, yet in concert, reaching for the heavens as they draw on the earth.

The next work, Re III, is more land based, as a conceptual reconstruction of the Silk Road in China, with the dancers clad in pale, dusty green, marching in chain formation, then flitting briefly about, in single and pairs.

The dancers move with the precision and group intent of locusts, bent on unstoppable crop destruction, yet occasionally beautiful, as they gather and glitter in the distance. The dancers lean on each other, sometimes moving blindly, in controlled communal chaos.

Their bodies, supple as water reeds bowing in the wind, enmesh, and gradually take on a larger group shape, as the endless winding road between East and West swallows up the individual. The music becomes a strident violin, as the dancers become more violent, and the backdrop takes on the clash and clutter of a city.

The final third of the tryptich, Re II, is visually startling, as it conjures up the jungle surrounding the ancient temples in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The backdrop begins as Hindu and Buddhist carvings, with the dancers in red, echoing the wooden relief. They move as characters in Chinese calligraphy, as if relating a story.

The sounds and images from the jungle gradually focus on enormous tree roots devouring the doors of the temple. The mammoth roots entwine, and slowly strangle the manmade monument of stones.

The dancers change and reenter, bathed in an unearthly yellow light, bare from the waist up. They move slowly and eerily, mimicking the twisting, convoluted shapes of the tree roots. One dancer lies down in a pool of light, contorting her body like liquid marble. She resembles a beheaded Pieta, uttering a soundless, eternal moan.

Some male and female dancers pair off in intricate, twisted duets, with a sense of anguish and futility overridden by a hint of comfort. The sounds of the jungle envelop the space bringing the sense of inevitable nature consuming all.

Shen Wei fuses the rich offering of ancient cultures, with the immutable forces of nature, embodied in the most modern movement and is as timeless as the soft falling snow on a Tibetan plateau.
Dancers (l to r): Jessica Harris, Sara Procopio, Cecily Campbell in in Shen Wei's 'Re - (I)' at Lincoln Center Festival (Photo also courtesy of Lincoln Center)

Dancers (l to r): Jessica Harris, Sara Procopio, Cecily Campbell in in Shen Wei's "Re - (I)" at Lincoln Center Festival
(Photo also courtesy of Lincoln Center)

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger


Dancers (l to r) Javier Baca, Andrew Cowan and Evan Copeland in Shen Wei's 'Re - (III)' at Lincoln Center Festival (Photo also courtesy of Lincoln Center)

Dancers (l to r) Javier Baca, Andrew Cowan and Evan Copeland in Shen Wei's "Re - (III)" at Lincoln Center Festival
(Photo also courtesy of Lincoln Center)

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger


Dancers of Shen Wei Dance Arts in Shen Wei's 'Re - (II)' at Lincoln Center Festival (Photo also courtesy of Lincoln Center)

Dancers of Shen Wei Dance Arts in Shen Wei's "Re - (II)" at Lincoln Center Festival
(Photo also courtesy of Lincoln Center)

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger

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