Dance Without Boundaries 

The legendary Shen Wei Dance Company is still taking giant steps.

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In this hyperconnected age, terms such as interdisciplinary and cross-cultural apply to so much of the art that we see and create, they almost lose their meaning. Boundaries -- between art forms, between cultures -- are nothing if not blurred. Still, an artist who crafts works using elements of disparate cultures and genres reawakens our appreciation of what’s possible when those elements converge, converse, or come into conflict.

Chinese-born choreographer and dancer Shen Wei, who studied traditional Chinese opera since he was 9, founded China’s first modern dance company in 1991. Four years later he moved to New York, and in 2000 founded Shen Wei Dance Arts. Lauded for compelling works of dance theater that fuse East and West, dance and painting, and -- you guessed it -- modern dance and Chinese opera, Shen and his company quickly jumped to national and international prominence.

At home with large or small scale projects, Shen has created works for museums and galleries, and was also part of the creative team behind the thrilling opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has used dancers as paintbrushes and the stage as canvas. As with any highly visible artist, Shen’s work has garnered great acclaim (“breathtaking, powerful, and riveting,” from The Boston Globe), and disappointment as well (“heavy-handed” from The New York Times). 

The company's Modlin Center appearances (Feb. 28 and 29) will mark the first time Shen Wei Dance Arts performs in Richmond. “Each work develops its own unique dance vocabulary incorporating visual and storytelling elements from theatre, Chinese opera, Eastern philosophy, traditional and contemporary dance, as well as visual arts and sculpture,” said the center’s executive director, Deborah Sommers, in an email. “Shen Wei Dance Arts’ performance of the new work, ‘Limited States’ is breathtaking, and will hold audiences in suspense from the beginning to the last moments of the piece.”

 Shen Wei Dance Arts will perform on Feb. 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Modlin Center for the Arts. Tickets $10-$40. For information, go to modlin.richmond.edu.

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