New Shen Wei work premieres at SMU

New Shen Wei work premieres at SMU

A new collaborative dance piece by the celebrated Chinese choreographer Shen Wei had its premiere at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.

Wei’s multi-disciplinary work, The New You, involves dancers, musicians, actors and a lot of paint. It was one of three works performed by the Meadows Dance Ensemble at its Spring Concert at Bob Hope Theater this weekend.

The 28-minute theatrical work is less about dancing and more about the arts colliding. It starts with paint squirted on a plexiglass screen, then moves on to actors calling out numbers that are explained to correlate to alphabet letters. Dancers, dressed in white jumpsuits, roll in paint and then down a giant sloped canvas to create a real-time work of art. While this is going on, musicians, also in white, play live onstage. The movement of the dancers, arms straight at the side with ethereal gazes, is purposely clinical for most of the piece. Bursts of freer movement by this talented group of students at the end are less than memorable.

Wei, an acclaimed choreographer and artistic director of his New York-based Shen Wei Dance Arts, describes the work in the program notes as “developing a new paradigm.” Whether you agree with that or not, he certainly devised something different. Wei received the Dallas-based Meadows Prize in 2010 and created his new work during a recent three-week residency at the university.

For more classical tastes, Adam Hougland’s modern ballet Five Preludes, with the women in black tutus, was a lovely addition to the program.  Hougland, a Dallas native and principal choreographer for the Louisville Ballet, creates a captivating, fast-moving 25-minute piece set to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s stirring Twenty-four Preludes for the Piano. Strong partnering, beautiful lines and soft lighting make this piece one to remember.

In SMU professor Danny Buraczeski’s Song Awakened – a love letter of sorts to the late African Grammy-award winning singer Cesaria Evora – it’s all about the music. Couples elegantly sway and move to the ethnic, breezy music. Albert Levi Drake III, a stand out for his smooth technique, and Katrina Kutsch are the central focus, and the flowy colorful costumes by Eugenia P. Stallings lend a light-as-air feel.