Near the Terrace
The second piece on Shen Wei Dance Arts' program at Zellerbach shut me right up. That's all I really want to say. Inspired by the work of Paul Delvaux and set to music by Arvo Pärt, Near the Terrace, Part I obliterated my experience of the Rite of Spring. Only a sacred litany can describe it: weird, intense, deliberate and patient. The nearly decrepit postures, sustained through almost the entire dance, wore a kind of knowing wisdom. Dressed in Romanesque half-togas, dancing on and in front of a massive, austere white staircase, bodies chalked white, and hair loosed in shocking, Medusa-like "arrangements," the dancers at times suggested holy sages and seers. At the same time, I couldn't help but think of their beautifully awkward movements--the strategic lifts and precious cradlings between pairs of dancers--as movements only a newborn could make. The entire piece felt wrapped in a caul, and as much as I wanted to remove it, I wanted to leave it alone, for luck.
But I'll quibble a bit, anyway. Pärt's Fur Alina and Spiegel im Spiegel did not form a musical whole on par with the rest of the piece. The spaciousness of Pärt's soundworld probably appealed to Shen Wei--the correlation of the music and movement as spatial explorations was dead on--but since neither of the pieces, alone, equaled the length of the dance, he just stuck them together, back to back. There are more graceful ways of handling such compositional dilemmas; of this I am sure. My other quibble is with the lighting design, which did not always reach into the range and far corners of dynamic subtlety presented by Wei's choreographic, costume, and design visions. This is a young company, however, and I will be keen to follow its developments in years to come.