ACC supports Yang Yuntao for Residency Program with Shen Wei Dance Arts


The Asian Cultural Council has announced an unprecedented creative collaboration between two distinguished choreographers from Hong Kong and New York.

Yang Yuntao, assistant artistic director of the Hong Kong Dance Company, has been awarded the 2011 Jean Ho Fellowship to launch a four-month residency with the acclaimed Shen Wei Dance Arts , now celebrating its tenth anniversary season at the New York Park Avenue Armory which is considered one of the most coveted spaces for large-scale avant-garde productions in the city. The world premiere of Shen Wei’s newest creation will take place at this venue at the end of November 2011.

Shen Wei, age 43, has achieved virtually unprecedented major international recognition as a modern dance choreographer from China. Hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the great artists of our time”, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” Award in 2007.

Shen Wei received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council in 1995. In 2000 he established Shen Wei Dance Arts which has toured 27 countries around the world, appearing in leading festivals in Edinburgh, Berlin, Venice and Lincoln Center. He has choreographed thirteen original works, including the well-known calligraphic dance piece which was featured as part of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and seen by 2 billion people worldwide.

Yang Yuntao is a rising star in contemporary Chinese dance on the other side of the world whose work is well known to contemporary dance audiences in mainland China. He has created works for the Beijing Modern Dance Company and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company as well as the Hong Kong Dance Company and City Contemporary Dance Company.

Originally from Yunnan Province, Yang is a member of the Bai ethnic minority and was trained in Chinese folk and classical dance at the Central University of Ethnic Minorities in Beijing. Following his graduation in 1992, he leapt into the less prescribed world of modern dance and joined the Guangdong Modern Dance Company where he performed as soloist from 1993 to 1999. He became a freelance choreographer in 2000 and landed the position of resident choreographer with the Hong Kong Dance Company in 2007. His full-length works Everlasting Love (2009) and The Three Kingdoms (2010) received high praise from the Hong Kong dance community.

His position at the Hong Kong Dance Company provides a platform to experiment with the ongoing challenge of finding alternative directions for modern Chinese dance which can speak to today’s society. “The Hong Kong Dance Company is at a turning point in seeking a new vision,“ Yang explained in a recent interview in Hong Kong. “I need to observe and absorb more from outside to make the most of this opportunity.”

Despite his important status in Hong Kong’s only government-funded dance company, Yang doesn’t conceal a boyish excitement about his upcoming adventure. “Creative artists need to explore new perspectives and experience different environments” he explained. “Our work becomes too limited if we don’t take time to expand our world view. We get stuck in our own narrow outlook.

Yet one wonders why a choreographer from China would travel to New York to shadow another Chinese artist.

“My purpose is not to imitate or even learn Shen Wei’s technique. Of course I must express my own sensibilities and find my own direction. Yet Shen Wei shares my cultural background and concern about Chinese tradition. He gives me a special window to explore modern dance in America. This is very important to me as a Chinese artist.”

Yang Yuntao left for New York on September 20th and will engage himself in the rare experience of observing the creative process of Shen Wei’s new extravaganza production from beginning to end. Shen Wei Dance Arts’ new commissioned work at the Park Avenue Armory will be performed from from November 29 to December 4, 2011 at the Park Avenue Armory.

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