Sometimes, its good to see a performance, leave it, then come back to it after a couple of days to see what remains. For me, after five days, “Connect Transfer” became a hazy blur of bodies, and a blank floor that gradually filled with color. There were several moments of stunning cohesion, and the sheer number of dancers (there were fourteen of them) was a treat, and as was their individual virtuosities. I especially loved the floorwork. Yet I never felt truly connected to what was happening on stage. Even when the dancers were rolling every which way on the floor with a paint-dipped sleeve, it still seemed very controlled and cold.
The first time the paint hit the floor though, it was really quite something. One literally saw the space being transformed by the swirling black paint as the dancer made her way across the floor. Instantly, instead of a blank canvas, it became a topography, a place of potential and imbalance. I love Shen Wei’s idea of using paint to trace movement. It is like trying to do the impossible – making a dance into a permanent physical form that one can go back to again and again. It exists as a record of sorts of the dance that had been. But after the initial excitement, I quickly grew disappointed, because it seemed the dance didn’t have anywhere further to go. There was the use of repetition of certain solos and movement phrases; one dancer would come on stage, and then another, and another. Then one would leave, and the rest would follow in a line. Momentarily, another dancer would appears, and start to solo again. I kept waiting for the piece to gel into a dynamic explosion, a celebration of the journey of color they were leaving at their feet – but it never quite got there. This was perhaps not helped by the very limited contact the dancers had with each other. Yes, there were lots of duets, trios, even group formations. Yet I never got the sense that the dancers were truly engaging with each other as people. Even with all fourteen dancers onstage, it was still very tidy, precise; energy held and focused inward. It was like they were each dancing on their own. And sadly, we the audience, never got to know them as individuals either. They were dressed in either black or blue leotards and tights, and for the most part, were like the same person. Maybe I was expecting too much theatricality from what was meant to be a formal exercise, but I was seriously hoping for much more from Shen Wei Dance Arts.