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Shen Wei Leads Fest On Journey Into Tibet (TB)

By Theodore Bale
Boston Herald
August 9, 2006

Chinese choreographer Shen Wei went to the mountains ofTibet in search of purity. He returned with the inspiration for an unusual dance for his New York-based company, Shen Wei Dance Arts, that it will perform at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festivaltonight through Sunday.

Given the enigmatic title "Re-," Shen's latest work isn't a story, but rather, as he explained, an opportunity for the viewer to stop and think. "I don't want to be too specific," Shen said, "but this title makes sense for me because there are so many English words that start with these letters, like return and renew, replace, rethink and so on. People make mistakes in life, but they can always rethink what has been done."

Before establishing himself as one of New York's most important choreographers, Shen co-founded China's first modern dance ensemble, Guangdong Dance Company. Of course, his travels in Tibet raise an obvious political question: What does he think of his native country's occupation of the region?

cw0"Everything political in our lives depends on where your center is," Shen said. "The relationship between China and Tibet is reported differently by the media in various countries. I thought that if I went there myself, I could hear both sides and assemble my own impression. It is so, so much more complicated than what I thought."

Shen didn't remain a comfortable tourist in Lhasa, the largest city in Tibet. Rather, he went to remote areas to visit Buddhisttemples and converse with monks and peasants. What disturbed him most was not the invasion of Chinese culture, but what he called "the global change" that can be found everywhere.

cw0"The thing I worry about most is whether or not traditional Tibetan culture can be saved," Shen said. "Maybe we can say that the Chinese have too much influence over the Tibetan culture or maybe that they destroyed it. But what I see now in Tibet is that the modern culture is not from China, but from everywhere. On the streets they don't listen to Chinese pop music, they listen to Madonna and other music from America. On television, you see Michael Jackson."


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