China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG), in collaboration with American Dance Festival, has announced a two-city tour and American premiere of the acclaimed poetic modern dance production Dongpo: Life in Poems in The Kennedy Center, Washington DC from March 8-10 and The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center from March 15-17. For tickets and more information, visit www.kennedy-center.org and davidhkochtheater.com.
Produced and performed by the China Oriental Performing Arts Group & Meishan Song and Dance Theatre, Dongpo: Life in Poems is the latest contemporary operatic dance directed by the international acclaimed dancer, choreographer, director, and painter Shen Wei who was honored with the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in Choreography 2022. With live Guqin music by Zhao Xiaoxia, the production is based on the poetry and life experiences of the renowned Chinese poet Su Dongpo (1037-1101). Su Dongpo lived in the Song Dynasty, and the production transforms the comprehension of poetry into self-perception, and then externalizes it through body movement and multiple audiovisual expressions.
This production goes beyond a speciﬁc depiction of a poet’s life. The work extends the movement language of modern dance and ballet by the deep integration of Chinese Opera, Tai Chi, and Visual Arts with a combination of Guqin music and contemporary music. It showcases the poet Dongpo’s soul, affection, melancholy, homesickness, and his optimism in getting along with the world calmly and with ease, along with the utilization of multiple art forms such as poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seal engraving. This work summarizes the poet’s emotions throughout his life into 12 pieces of his poems. The contemplation, questioning, dreaming, intoxication, sorrow, lingering, and unrestrained emotions expressed in these poems are accessibly experienced and easily awakened to all beings in their vast and diverse lives, regardless of their Eastern or Western origins. A connection with the poet Dongpo from a millennium ago stimulates a spiritual bond and further enables a comprehension of the transcultural and universally shared love with intellectual and spiritual essence that unites humanity.
The creative team also includes the Chinese-French composer Chen Qigang, the music director of the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, and Xiao Lihe, lighting designer of the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games who graduated from the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University and studied under the noted lighting designer for Chinese opera, Prof. Jin Changlie, and leading American theater professors Jennifer Tipton and Ming Cho Lee. Guo Changhong, Deputy Secretary-General of China Television Arts Commission, a National Grade-I Playwright, and a judge of the China TV Drama Flying Apsaras Awards, serves as the co-playwright, and Yang Tao, Vice President of the China Calligraphy Academy and doctoral advisor, was engaged in design concerning calligraphy and seal engraving.
Dongpo: Life in Poems is a part of CAEG’s Image China cultural exchange initiative, which seeks to introduce traditional and contemporary Chinese performing arts to audiences around the world. Since its inception in 2009, Image China has presented works at performance venues across the globe, including Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and stages throughout Europe and Australia. Recent productions include Mulan, Princess Zhaojun, Xuanzang’s Pilgrimage, Dragon Boat Racing, Soaring Wings, Confucius and others.
Dongpo: Life in Poems plays a limited run at the Kennedy Center (2700 F Street, NW) from March 8-10. The performance schedule is March 8 at 7:30pm, March 9 at 1:30pm and 7:30pm and March 10 at 1:30pm. Ticket prices range from $39 to $169 (plus service fee) and can be purchased online at www.kennedy-center.org.
Dongpo: Life in Poems plays a limited run at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center (20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY) from March 15-17. The performance schedule is March 15 at 7:30pm, March 16 at 1:30pm and 7:30pm and March 17 at 1:30pm. Ticket prices range from $39 to $169 (plus facility fee) and can be purchased online at www.davidhkochtheater.com.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION TEAM
(Director, Choreographer, Visual Director, Playwright, Set/Costume/Modeling Design)
Shen Wei is an internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, painter, and director. Born into an artistic family in Hunan, he studied Chinese ink and meticulous painting as a child. At the age of 9, Shen Wei trained in traditional Chinese opera. At the age of 16, he studied oil and mural painting. When he was 19, he majored in modern dance at the program by American Dance Festival and Guangdong Dance Academy, and became a dancer and choreographer for Guangdong Modern Dance Company, China’s first modern dance company, in 1992. In 1994, his solo evening Small Room became his first self-written, directed, performed, and designed work. His solo work Insomnia won the first prize in choreography and performance at the first Chinese Modern Dance Competition in 1994. He received a scholarship from Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab to study in New York in 1995. At age 26, he studied film and had his first art film April and his first solo painting exhibition Body Existence in New York City in 1998. In 2000, he founded Shen Wei Dance Arts in American Dance Festival, the dance company based in New York, and established his “Natural Body Development” technique, taught in many major universities and dance centers. His company performed his work in over 40 countries and 140 cities worldwide.
He received commissions from more than 30 major international art institutions to create modern dance, ballet, opera, painting, art films, and installation performances. Commissions from the American Dance Festival Near The Terrace and Rite Of Spring, and many other works with total 16 commissions, Edinburgh International Art Festival Re-Triptych, Lincoln Center Art Festival Map, Second Visits to the Empress, and Connect Transfer, Berlin Art Festival Solo of the day – B.E.R.L.I.N., Hong Kong New Vision Art Festival Collective Measures, Le Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal Re-II (Angkor Wat), New York Park Avenue Armory Undivided Divided (multimedia immersive performance), The Kennedy Center Second Visit To The Empress (modern dance/Peking Opera), B.A.M. Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival Neither (avant-garde opera/dance), Holland Arts Festival/Dutch National Ballet Rite Of Spring (Orchestra/ballet version), Roman Opera House Moses and Pharaoh (opera/dance), San Carlo Opera House Carmina Burana (opera/dance), Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo 7 to 8 (dance), Metropolitan Museum Still Moving (immersive installation performance), Miami MDC Museum of Art and Design Shen Wei: Black, White, and Gray (Painting exhibition), The Asia Society Hong Kong Center Museum, Untitled-33 Rooftop (performance in conjunction with painting exhibition Dance Brush), Hunan T.V. educational variety dance program Dance Splash, China Shanghai International Art Festival a large-scale immersive total art exhibition and performance Integrate, and a solo large-scale painting exhibition Shen Wei: Exploring the Unknown at the Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai (P.S.A.). In 2021-2022 a large solo exhibition SHEN WEI: Painting In Motion included his painting, film, and dance on video exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston with a commission video/film Passionate Spirit. In 2008, he was invited to choreograph for the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony and was the director of the Scroll Painting segment.
Admiration for his talent has earned Shen Wei numerous awards, including the US Artists Fellow Award, John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Nijinsky Emerging Choreographer Award 2004, Australiaʼs Helpmann Award 2005, Les Étoiles de Ballet Award 2006, MacArthur Genius Grant Award 2007, Algur H. Meadows Prize 2011, the 2017 Asian Cultural Council’s John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award, The International Society for the Performing Artsʼs Distinguished Artist Award 2022, and Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in Choreography 2022.
Chen Qigang (Composer/Music Director)
Chen Qigang is one of the living composers most performed around the world, winning him many accolades. He is Olivier Messiaen’s last student, from 1984 to 1988. His first five years in France allowed him to broaden the scope of his culture and acquire new knowledge about 20th century music. In 2001 his orchestral work Wu Xing was selected from over 1000 entries as one of the five finalists of the Masterprize Award, hosted by the BBC. In 2003, EMI/Virgin Classics released an album devoted to his music, including the highly acclaimed work Iris Devoilée. It was later voted by Gramophone Magazine as one of the Top Ten Classical Recordings of the Month. In 2005, He was awarded the Grand Prix de la Musique Symphonique by SACEM in recognition of his career achievement. In 2013, he was decorated with Chevalier de l’Ordre des arts et des lettres by the French government. In China, Chen Qigang was elected “World’s Best Classical Musician in the Chinese Language” by the Chinese press in 2004 and 2012. He acted as the Music Director of the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and his composition You and Me was selected as the Olympic theme song for that year.
Guo Changhong (Playwright)
Guo Changhong is the Deputy Secretary-general of China Television Arts Commission, national First Grade playwright, Deputy Editor-in-chief of the China Television Magazine, judge of the China TV Drama Flying Apsaras Award and the China TV Literature & Art Starlight Award. He once served as the Director of the Administrator’s Office of the National Broadcast and Television Administration, and Director of the Department of Museums, the National Cultural Heritage Administration, and joined the Chinese National Academy of Arts in 2006. He was the chief writer and dramatist for over 30 TV documentaries and films including Mei Lanfang, Forbidden City, Dunhuang, Picturesque Scenery and Contemporary Chinese Writers, and the chief advisor for the musical Su Dongpo. His works have been given the 11th China Television Documentary Academic Award, Top Ten Documentary Award, 23rd China TV Golden Eagle Award for Best Full-length Documentary.
Xiao Lihe (Lighting Design)
Xiao Lihe received the Bachelor of Arts from Stage Design Department of Shanghai Theatre Academy, and Master of Arts from Department of Design of Yale University School of Drama. She studied under the renowned Chinese theater lighting design Professor Jin Changlie, as well as internationally acclaimed figures in the field, including Professor Jennifer Tipton and Ming Cho Lee from the United States. She has held positions at Shanghai Theatre Academy and Queens College, City University of New York. Additionally, she has been engaged as a guest designer at institutions like Brown University in the United States and the University of Victoria in Canada. She has served as the lighting designer for the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympics. Her major works include dance dramas White Snake (Shanghai Grand Theatre), A Dream of Red Mansions (Jiangsu Grand Theatre), Ambush on All Sides (Yang liping Dance Theatre), Made in China/Peony Pavilion (Jinxing Dance Group), musicals Hamlet and The Orphan of Zhao (Chinese Xu Jun Drama), and opera Garden Surprise (Lincoln Center).
Yang Tao (Calligraphy and Seal Engraving)
Yang Tao is the Vice President of the China Calligraphy Academy, a member of the Arts Committee of the Chinese National Academy of Arts, a national First Grade artist, a professor, and a doctoral advisor. He currently serves as a panel expert of the National Arts Fund, a panel expert with the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, a member of the Exhibition Qualification Review Board of the National Art Museum of China, a member of the 10th and 11th National Committee of the All-China Youth Federation, Director of the Chinese Calligraphy and Seal Engraving Committee of the Youth Federation under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a member of the Xiling Seal Society, and a researcher at the China National Academy of Painting. He is the author of the books Seal Engraving in Pictures and A Textbook of Calligraphy for Primary and Secondary School Students (Higher Education Press), and the co-author of A Concise History of Chinese Calligraphy.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
China Oriental Performing Arts Group Co., Ltd.
China Oriental Performing Arts Group Co., Ltd. (COPAG) developed mainly out of China Song and Dance Troupe, which was established in December 1952, and Oriental Song and Dance Troupe, which was established in January 1962. It is the most prestigious national art troupe in China and represents the highest achievements of China’s music and dance, nurturing numerous world renown artists, created and performed countless fine art works which were presented to Chinese and foreign audience. On behalf of China, COPAG has delivered thousands of performances around 5 continents covering more than 100 countries and regions, and participated in numerous important national performances, which plays a unique role in promoting friendship and culture exchanges between China and the rest countries of the world as a “cultural envoy”. In the new era, COPAG will strives to deliver a fresh image of China as well as Chinese spirit through art. Recently, the group has produced a number of widely acclaimed cultural and artistic works, such as contemporary operatic dance Dongpo: Life in Poems, poetic dance The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Painting, musical Teacher Guimei and The City of Stars, etc. In 2022, the group won the 17th “Wenhua Award”, the highest national award for the stage arts established by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China, with its poetic dance The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Painting. In 2023, the group was nominated as the 15th “Top 30 National Cultural Enterprises”.
Meishan Song and Dance Theatre
Founded in May 2020, Meishan Song and Dance Theatre has participated in various artistic activities and competitions, showcases its unique vitality and artistic style, and attracts extensive attention. Meishan is the hometown of Su Dongpo, one of the greatest poets in Song Dynasty of China. It is the bounden duty of Meishan Song and Dance Theatre to inherit the Three Su (Su Xun, Su Shi, Su Zhe) culture and spread the Dongpo culture. Based on Three Su culture and Dongpo culture, Meishan Song and Dance Theatre follows the trend while integrates traditional culture and Chinese aesthetic into artistic works, and uses modern promotion methods and technology to show the profound heritage and unique charm of traditional culture, effectively promoting the refined Chinese culture at home and abroad. In the future, Meishan Song and Dance Theatre will integrating its development into art creation, performance, management, and training, as well as culture and tourism and the services for public culture, and strive to become a unique model of China’s state-owned art troupe.