Shen Wei Dance Art

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PREVIEW It might be just as well that Chinese choreographer Shen Wei didn't start dancing until quite late — at the ripe old age of 20. But what he may have missed in early dance training, he more than made up for in other artistic endeavors. The son of Chinese opera performers in Hunan, at age 9, Wei followed the parental path and began studying opera, and by 16 he was performing with the Hunan State Opera. He also studied, and became recognized in, the demanding art of Chinese watercolor. So when Wei became a founding member of Guangdong Modern Dance Company, China's first contemporary dance group, he brought an exceptionally well-honed visual sensibility to dance. To this day, his choreography shows a rare ability to unite the visual and the kinetic, not to mention the East and the West. He eventually moved to New York and created Shen Wei Dance Art company in 2003. Last year he won a MacArthur Fellowship, and this summer his company will perform at the opening of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He's having that kind of explosive career. But then why wouldn't mysteriously staged, musically intriguing, visually stunning dance theater lure in audiences? For its Yerba Buena appearance, the company performs Map (2005) to Steve Reich's 1985 sprawling orchestral suite The Desert Music, and on a more intimate scale, Re-(Part 1) (2006) to Tibetan chant. (Rita Felciano)

SHEN WEI DANCE ART Thurs/6–Sat/8, 8 p.m, $26–$45. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

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