The Wind of Life & The Subconscious Through the Eyes of an Everlasting Poet in Shein Wei’s Dongpo: Life in Poems

Dongpo: Life in Poems
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Acclaimed choreographer and artist Shein Wei’s, Dongpo: Life in Poems, a wide-sweeping
piece of work chronicling the life of iconic Chinese poet, Su Dongpo (1037-1101), feels like a
swirling, ever-evolving breeze with a life of a thousand years. With its American premiere first at
The Kennedy Center and subsequently, at The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, this
monument of a piece is produced and performed by the masterful and versatile China Oriental
Performing Arts Group and Meishan Song and Dance Theater. Described as a contemporary
operatic dance, Shein Wei utilizes his multiple talents in interdiscplinary art forms to squeeze
every drop out of the story, poetic works, and legacy of the famed poet.

Broken up into acts defined by poetic verse projected onto mesmerizing, striking, and innovative
sets, and beautiful hand-painted scenes of the natural world, we are transported into the mind,
surroundings, dreams, creations, and primarily, the power of Dongpo. The sets designed by Wei
himself contribute immensely to the effect of the piece, at times carving out and spotlighting
small insights into a specific emotion and texture while blacking out all the surroundings so we
are suspended in space and the imaginary, and playing with depth so cleverly that we question
gravity. The line that defines time, reality, and the imagined is beautifully blurred in Dongpo: Life
in Poems so that we can understand the immortally powerful role Dongpo has played for the
Chinese culture and people, no matter where in the world they may land. As emphasized
throughout the piece and the depiction of Dongpo’s journey, missing home as a tangible place

was quite important to Dongpo’s emotional life as it can be for so many, but artistic energy
fortified by a connection to the self, other humans, and the surrounding natural world can act as
a vessel to carry home, and process yearning and sorrow.

The role of Su Dongpo is danced and portrayed brilliantly by Su Peng. His movements range
from contemplatively slow to rapid but rich with balletic, traditionally Chinese, and contemporary
movements that create a similar impact as the poet himself. He delicately balances the
humanity of this long-gone but larger-than-life literary figure by radiating stunning authority
touched by love, and a great curious presence of everything that affects his life and
consciousness. Peng is accompanied by an ensemble of outstanding movement artists and a
wonderful dancing and acting partner, Wu Mengke, who embodies Dongpo’s wife, Wang Fu.
The ensemble dancers of COPAG ripple and echo each other and Dongpo as they are charged
by his presence, actions, and life turns. They transition their role from people, to what seem like
particles in the air, rolling through the natural world, and in and out of the churning brain of the
incredibly thoughtful, loveable poet. The resulting synergy of every detail, of which there is a
sea, works to create a world touched by an affectionate artist and lover of humanity, nature, and
philosophical thought, that lives to this outside the bounds of time and place.

Shen Wei’s American premiere of Dongpo: Life in Poems is presented in collaboration with
China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG) and American Dance Festival, and played at
The Kennedy Center from March 8-10, and The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center
from March 15-17. For more information, please visit

Photos were provided by Dongpo: Life in Poems


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