Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company’s NY season
In two performances on April 6th and 7th, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company will present the New York premiere of Ms. Chen’s Whirlwind, a work inspired by the choreographer’s recent journey on the legendary Silk Road, which begins in China and passes through Central Asia. Set to music by renowned world-percussionist Glen Velez, the work revolves around the movement of eight men and eight women.
Whirlwind was born after Ms. Chen took a rail journey that started in Shanghai, one of the most modern cities in the world, to Xian, the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty, and then to Duanhuang, well-known for its giant Buddhist statues and thousands of cave paintings created by monks on their journey to India. She then traveled through Turpan in the Gobi desert, one of the world’s hottest locations, before finishing her journey in Wulumuqi, the center of the modern-day Xinjiang Province. Taking the traveler through many mountains and deserts, the legendary Silk Road not only connected trade and merchandise, but also cultures, art and religions of many countries.
The work’s title, Whirlwind, is named for a desert phenomenon caused by air coming from the mountains in all different directions to the plains. It is believed by some to be the manifestation of the great breath, the divine energy of the universe.
In Whirlwind, Ms. Chen explores movements based on trance, rhythmic breathing and continuous spiral motion. She studied the shape and energy of the whirlwind, which is reflected in the music and dance of the people of the area. Historically, the music and dance of the Silk Road had a deep impact on Chinese culture, dance and martial arts, as characterized by the continuous circular motion of Tai chi, as an example.
Coming back to the U.S., Ms. Chen, a native of Taiwan, began exploring choreographic ideas based on the spiraling energy of the whirlwind. To reflect the cross cultural contemporary musical context of the new work, Nai-Ni engaged composer, master drummer and famed world percussionist Glen Velez and his TaKaDiMi Ensemble. The resulting score, which features the Central Asian instrument of frame drum, and voice, helped the choreographer to convey the lively energy in the whirlwind.
The dance also incorporates visual elements from cross-cultural artist Jayanthi Moorthy of India, whose work incorporates traditional painting, digital animation and video.
The result is a dance inspired by new energies from vibrant cultures, an exciting percussion score and an age-old phenomenon of nature. Reviewing a recent performance of an excerpt from Whirlwind at NJPAC, Karen McDonough noted the “great original movement in this dance and beautiful artistic execution by the dancers.”
For two performances only, the show will be presented at Capezio Theater, located at Peridance on 126 East 13th Street, NYC. For more information or to book tickets, visit www.nainichen.org.
Photo: Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company performs Whirlwind. Photo by Joseph Wagner, courtesy of Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company.