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Behind Resonance

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The dance under analysis “Behind Resonance” is presented by the Chinese choreographer Shen Wei, who immigrated to the United States of America in 1995, set out to turn into a spectacle maximum performance tuned, honed, dramaturgic and plastically expressive whole. His experiments on crossing conceptual artistic gestures with modern ballet led to a particular style his troupe practiced under his supervision.

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His work combines the ideas of East and West, the elements of the Chinese national opera movement of martial arts, abstract expressionism and Western modernism that attracted many fans. Wei’s productions reflect the fundamental ideas of Chinese philosophy and aesthetics refracted in a modern European style. Enrolled in the Beijing Opera, where dance, singing, music, set design and the art of makeup are taught, Shen Wei himself takes care of everything except for the music. Some critics have compared his improvisational performances with paintings of Jackson Pollock. Throughout the show, not a single typical ballet pas was observed: Shen Wei is faithful to his method, involving a shift in artistic exaggerated space, exaggerated gestures of life around. The inherent interdisciplinary work does not allow them to equate dance as such. This genre of contemporary performance art owes its name to the same word and refers to the concept of performance. However, it was originally conceived as the opposite of theatrical tradition. Artists and performers are always trying to avoid the usual stage and auditorium, as well as excessive training of their actions. The main idea is to be spontaneous and supposedly inspired.

The ultramodern ballet technique and bodies movement system are the physical elements which Shen Wei developed since 1989 to make them combined with pulses of music, with its clarity and specificity. Shen Wei has created a new structure of the movement that is th balance between precision and intuition, showing in the dance that life always coexists with a certain random and uncontrollable elements. Despite the fact that Shen Wei is famous for his mathematical precision of all performances, he combines talented chaos and control in the interpretation of music by David Lang.

The dance was first choreographed in 2001, and this time, the concert was the representation of the changed variant that premiered in 2003. The initial meaning suggested thoughts about the time and place that was represented by the sea, past and present. However, the new interpretation formed totally new look upon things opening the stage curtain to the actions that happen behind the resonance.

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This work was chosen for the critique for a number of reasons. First of all, the mysterious effect of constant chaos and strict character of actions and moves on the stage, inspiring and hypnotizing music that produces an incredible effect upon the listeners. The emotional coloring of the performance is extremely high and produces an effect of spontaneous actions that were thoroughly planned by the master. Moreover, the effective combination of powerful bodies that move tenderly over the stage give the feeling of harmony of the world, its constant struggle between softness of the moves and the power of tense muscles.

The dancers were moving around the stage and created the solid image of one whole that lives, moves and acts behind resonance of the outer world. The colors that were used for this performance include dark green, white, grey and some others; they help the onlookers to see behind the performance and feel the atmosphere of time and place that were rendered by their choreography. Imagining the dancers’ feelings during the performance, it seems that the whole concert was a state of trance and invisible connection of material world with the spiritual one.

The duets of men and women were performing as if they had a mission to present to the onlookers. The idea of their moves was to form a solid combination of bodies and prove the importance of dependence of each half of one whole, and contrast their unity to the effects of the outer world.

The artist was successful in his interpretation of place as he mentions that the main idea was to show the place in the context of the dancers’ moves and to accentuate upon the place embodiment among the performers, making it the leading theme of their actions. The stage became the soul of itself in the moves of the dancers. 

The size of the cast was 11 people with two leading parts. They were dancing solo and in pairs that consisted of men and women as well as of women only. Their moves around the stage were rather chaotic, though in the context of the whole performance, they presented the solid and regulated structure of the moves. Such concepts as disability, ethnic or cultural component as well as nationality were not important, while gender was thematically used.

The main theme of the dance was a thorough combination of abstract phenomena through the narrative tendency of performance. The moves of the dancers were emotional and produced the effect of importance of the place in the exact period of time. The music that added to the emotional coloring of the performance was an essential element as it produced the resonance behind which the watchers had to see the main idea of the dance. The moves were well trained though the whole expression of the performance contained incredible feeling of spontaneous action. All elements of performance were used to render the general idea. The space was presented using decorations; moreover, the place was embodied and emphasized by the whole performance.

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