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Michelle Brandon
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New York, NY


by Michelle Brandon
November 29, 2011
New York, NY
Celebrates 10th Anniversary with a World Premiere
New York Season Presented by Park Avenue Armory
November 29 – December 4, 2011
Shen Wei Dance Arts celebrates its 10th Anniversary Season from November 29 – December 4, 2011 at Park Avenue Armory with the World Premiere of Shen Wei's Undivided Divided, an ambitious site-specific work commissioned by the Armory, where the company has been Artists-in-Residence for the past sixteen months. Park Avenue Armory is located at 643 Park Avenue (between 66th and 67th Streets), New York City. Tickets are $35 and are available by calling the Park Avenue Armory Ticket Hotline at 212-933-5812 or by visiting www.ArmoryonPark.org.

With the compositional rigor of a visual artist (the choreographer typically designs his own sets, costumes and make-up), Shen Wei incorporates vivid colors, striking design, and imaginative use of space into theatrical, kinetic paintings. Often staging his dances on a grand scale with a high level of production detail, his works have been celebrated for their "gorgeous visual imagery" (The London Times).

Following his creative exploration as a Park Avenue Armory Artist-in-Residence, Artistic Director Shen Wei and his company, Shen Wei Dance Arts, performs a bold world premiere work that heralds the next direction for the ensemble. Created during the Company's 16-month residency at the Armory, Undivided Divided combines handcrafted scenic elements with expansive digital projection in a performance that makes dynamic use of the boundless possibilities available in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Sixty 7'x7' visually distinct squares line the floor of the drill hall, providing 60 performance zones for the Company's 32 dancers. Each is distinguished with its own vocabulary and aesthetic by the use of lighting, projections, and Shen Wei's own scenic design elements. Twelve hand-crafted and performative installations line the rear perimeter of the stage space, designed to go beyond the visual and auditory aspects of the performance and create a wholly immersive experience. Audiences will be invited to move throughout the performance, creating moments of intimate engagement and highly individualized experiences. The evening-length program also includes restagings of two of Shen Wei's most celebrated works: Rite of Spring (2003), a study of deliberate versus reflexive movement set to a four-hand piano arrangement of Stravinsky's famous composition; and Folding (2000), which combines highly stylized movement with the ethereal melodies of John Tavener and traditional Tibetan Buddhist chants.

Undivided Divided - World Premiere (Park Avenue Armory commission)
Concept, Choreography, and Sets: Shen Wei
Original Score: Sō Percussion
Lighting Design: Jennifer Tipton
Digital Media and Animation: Josh Horowitz, Layne Braunstein
Costume Design: Austin Scarlett
Sound Design: Lawson White

Rite of Spring
Premiered: 2003 (American Dance Festival)
Choreography, Sets, and Costumes: Shen Wei
Music: Igor Stravinsky (Four-hand piano version recorded by Fazil Say)
Lighting: Jennifer Tipton

Premiered: 2000 (originally created for China's Guangdong Modern Dance Company)
Choreography, Set, Costume, and Make Up: Shen Wei
Music: John Tavener and Tibetan Buddhist Chants
Lighting: Jennifer Tipton

Artistic Director Shen Wei is a choreographer, director, dancer, painter and designer, renowned for his cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, boldly visual movement-based performances. Born in China's Hunan Province, the son of Chinese Opera professionals, he 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 also studied Western visual art from Neo-Classicism to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, which propelled an interest in modern dance. In 1991 he became a founding member—dancer & choreographer—of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first such company in China. In 1995, upon receipt of a fellowship, he moved to NYC to study with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and was invited to present his work at the American Dance Festival. Invitations to important Asian and European festivals followed. In July 2000, he founded Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) and his Company entered the international touring circuit. In the last 10 years, SWDA has toured extensively on five continents performing at such leading festivals as the Venice Biennale, Berliner Festpiele, the Edinburgh Int'l Festival, Lincoln Center Festival (5 times), and the American Dance Festival (10 times). SWDA also received a five-year performance residency at the Kennedy Center. Over the last decade, Shen Wei has created 13 original works for SWDA, designing the sets, costumes, and make-up for each.

Shen Wei has received numerous honors including a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship (2007), a Nijinsky Award, Australia's Helpmann Award for Best Dance Work, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a United States Artists Fellowship.

He has received six commissions from the American Dance Festival, two from Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, two from the Lincoln Center Festival, and two from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Shen Wei was selected as principal choreographer for the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and created choreography for the Rome Opera's production of Rossini's Moise et Pharaon (12/2010).

Shen Wei Dance Arts has performed on five continents, in 130 cities and 30 countries. The company has performed at such preeminent festivals and venues as the Venice Biennale, Het Muziektheater, and the Hong Kong New Vision Festival. In the U.S., the company has been presented five times by the Lincoln Center Festival, is enjoying a unique five-year performance residency at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and gave the first dance performances on the concert stage at Frank Gehry's Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

Recent touring has taken the Company to: Haus der Berliner Festspiele (Berlin, Germany); the Bartók National Concert Hall, Palace of Arts (Budapest, Hungary); Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, SC); American Dance Festival (Durham, NC); the Edinburgh International Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland) sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in London, the Culture and Congress Centre (Ljublana, Slovenia); Teatro Grande (Brescia, Italy) and Teatro Municipale and Collezione Maramotti (Reggio Emilia, Italy). This past June, the Company premiered a site-specific performance work Still Moving, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Engelhard Court of the American Wing, the first time that the Met had ever commissioned a site-specific dance for one of its galleries. Following the Armory performances the Company will tour to New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; Richmond, VA; Louisville, KY and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Part palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory fills a critical void in the cultural ecology of New York by enabling artists to create, and the public to experience, unconventional work that could not otherwise be mounted in traditional performance halls and museums. With its soaring 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall—reminiscent of 19th-century European train stations—and its array of exuberant period rooms, the Armory inspires artists to draw upon its grand scale and distinctive character and captivates audiences with its ability to provide intense, dramatic, intimate, and immersive experiences.

Since its first production in September 2007—Aaron Young's Greeting Card, a 9,216-square-foot "action"
painting created by the burned-out tire marks of ten choreographed motorcycles presented with Art Production
Fund—the Armory has organized a series of immersive performances, installations, and works of art that have drawn critical and popular attention. 2011 marked the Armory's first full season of artistic programming, which culminates this November and December with site-specific performances by STREB and Shen Wei Dance Arts, and the final performances of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue (between 66th and 67th Streets), NYC
November 29 – December 3, 2011, at 7:30pm
December 4, 2011, at 2pm
Tickets: $35
Park Avenue Armory Ticket Hotline (212) 933-5812, www.ArmoryonPark.org

Additional private support for this program has been provided by The SHS Foundation, the Winston Foundation, the Shubert Foundation, the Fund for the City of New York, The New York Community Trust, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Jerome Robbins Foundation and the Harkness Foundation for Dance. Thanks to Mana Contemporary.

Public support for this production has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Additional support provided through a generous space grant from the Park Avenue Armory and a space grant from Mana Contemporary (Jersey City, NJ), providing the artist with space large enough for a scalable creative process.
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