Shen Wei Dance Arts' return fails to live up to high expectations
Shen Wei Dance Arts: Limited States/Illuminate
Hong Kong Cultural Centre
17 November 2012
New York-based Chinese choreographer Shen Wei and his company last appeared here in 2009 with Re (I, II, III). That programme showed Shen as the master of an inventive choreographic language distinguished by its seamless organic flow.
The company's return promised much: a new version of Shen's 2011 Limited States and the world premiere of Illuminate, a site-specific work created for the Hong Kong Cultural Centre's foyer.
In the event, both pieces were a disappointment. In Limited States the emphasis was on "limited". The score consisted of either silence or the same electronic phrase repeated for several minutes at a time - closer to psychological torture than music.
The dancers performed mostly in isolation with little evidence of Shen's exceptional ability to bring them together to form a single body other than in one striking final image. The use of multimedia had a few imaginative moments, notably a sequence where black and white lighting was used to create a startling mosaic-like effect.
However, the concept of having one dancer projected and the others live has been done many times before - and often to better effect, for example in the work of Hong Kong's Daniel Yeung.
After the interval, the audience headed to the foyer for the next performance. Each group was allowed access to only a specific area, based on ticket price. Those with the most expensive seats were able to walk around the foyer and see the dancers up close. Ironically, people in the Upper Circle with the least expensive tickets probably came out best, getting a bird's eye view of the entire foyer.
Site-specific works are all the rage and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department deserves credit for experimenting with this genre. The problem is that by their nature such works are unlikely to be substantive, and Illuminate was no exception.
Apart from one strong moment where the dancers lay down to form a continuous circle on the floor, there was little actual choreography. The most interesting feature was having the performers roll around in different coloured paints on white sheets on the floor, livening up the drab landscape of the foyer with some Jackson Pollock-like effects.