Hailed by the New York Times as "startlingly imaginative" and widely acclaimed wherever it performed, Shen Wei Dance Arts is founded upon the fusion of art forms: dance, theater, Chinese opera, painting, sculpture and a unique hybridism of Western and Eastern cultures. The result is "fascinating fantasy in movement" (Sydney Morning Herald).
Shen Wei was born in Hunan, studied Chinese opera at the age of 9, and began his performing career in the provincial opera troupe. He then became an original member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company. After winning first prize both for choreography and performance at the inaugural National Modern Dance Competition in China in 1994, he received a scholarship from the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and moved to New York City a year later. Shen Wei Dance Arts began at the American Dance Festival during the summer of 2000.
Shen Wei has been commissioned by the American Dance Festival (1995, 2000–04), Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater II, Dances We Dance Company of Hawaii, and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company. Apart from repeated engagements at the annual Lincoln Center Festival and the Venice Biennale, Shen Wei Dance Arts has appeared in renowned festivals in the U.S. and around the world, from Spoleto to Jacob's Pillow, from Montpellier to Sydney.
At once representational and abstract, Shen Wei's choreography is the moving medium among complementary visual elements in the works he creates. Based upon research in original movement and spiritual beliefs, each new multi-layered work demands the creation of an entirely new physical vocabulary. The performance space is best described as a canvas, with dimensionality and negative space serving as both landscape and character in the composite work.
Shen Wei's work as a visual artist includes painting, design and filmmaking. Critics have described his vision as "painterly, mathematical and idiosyncratic...This is imagery and conceptualism with a difference" (The New York Times ). His creative exploration of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring directly inspired a series of large-scale paintings which were first exhibited as part of his Company's New York debut at the Lincoln Center Festival in July 2003.