Durham, NC, April 12, 2022 The American Dance Festival (ADF) will present the 2022 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement to acclaimed choreographer and artist Shen Wei. Established in 1981 by Samuel H. Scripps, the annual award honors choreographers who have dedicated their lives and talent to the creation of modern dance.

Shen Wei will be in residence at ADF during the 2022 season working on his latest ADF commission set on ADF students through the Footprints program. ADF Director Emeritus Charles L. Reinhart will present the $50,000 award in a brief ceremony on Saturday, July 16th at 7:30pm, prior to the Footprints performance in Reynolds Industries Theater.

“Shen Wei is one of the most innovative choreographers of the 21st century. His original movement, fusing eastern and western traditions combined with his exquisite costume and set designs, create life-size visual feasts that transport and thrill audiences. We are so pleased to present him with this award and to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the founding of his company, Shen Wei Dance Arts, at ADF,” stated ADF Executive Director Jodee Nimerichter.

Hailed as “one of the most expansive, creative minds in the arts” (The New York Sun), choreographer, director, and painter Shen Wei is internationally renowned for the breadth and scope of his artistic vision.

Admiration for his talent has earned Shen Wei numerous awards, including a 2007 MacArthur Genius Grant Award, the US Artists Fellow Award, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Other accolades include Australia’s Helpmann Award, the Nijinsky Emerging Choreographer Award, the Algur H. Meadows Prize, Les Étoiles de Ballet Award, Audi-China 2012 Artist of the Year Award, GQ-China 2013 Artist of the Year Award, the 2013 Chinese Innovator Award from The Wall Street Journal-China, and the Asian Cultural Council’s 2017 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award.

Born in China’s Hunan province in 1968, the son of Chinese opera professionals, Shen Wei was trained from youth in the rigorous practice of Chinese opera performance and traditional Chinese ink painting and calligraphy and was a performer with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company from 1984 to 1989. During his student years, he studied western visual art, which propelled an interest in modern dance.

In 1989, he began modern dance training at the American Dance Festival’s program at the Guangdong Dance Academy in China. In 1991 he became a founding member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first such company in China. Upon receipt of a fellowship, he moved to New York City in 1995 to study with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and, in the same year, was invited to create work on ADF students at the American Dance Festival. In July 2000, he founded Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) with his ADF students, and his company quickly entered the international touring circuit.

His company has toured in over 30 countries in 140 cities. He formed his own dance technique “Natural Body Development,” and it has been taught in universities and dance centers as well as at the American Dance Festival, where it will be taught again in 2022.

Shen Wei has received over 23 commissions from major presenting institutions to support his creative work, including sixteen commissions from the American Dance Festival and commissions from Het Muziektheater, Lincoln Center Festival, and the Kennedy Center, as well as from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Park Avenue Armory, Hong Kong’s New Vision Arts Festival, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Edinburgh International Festival, and, most recently, BAM and the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College.

The lead choreographer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shen Wei has also created dances for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and choreographed the Rome Opera’s production of Rossini’s Moise et Pharaon, conducted by Ricardo Muti. In 2013, Shen Wei was commissioned to create a new work for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, a new version of Rite of Spring with live orchestra performance, and he choreographed, directed, and designed a new production of Carmina Burana for the chorus, orchestra, and ballet of Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy, with his company performing in leading roles.

Recently, his work as a visual artist and choreographer has entered into a new dialogue in a series of performative installations and site-specific works that have been presented at a number of museums and galleries including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, Collezione Maramotti in Italy, the Forum at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Rockbund Museum of Art in Shanghai, MDC Museum of Art + Design in Miami, Guggenheim Museum, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, and the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum.

As a painter, Shen Wei has had solo exhibitions in leading galleries and museums: Chambers Fine Art Gallery (New York), Crow Collection of Asian Art (Dallas), Hong Kong Cultural Center, and Tucson Museum of Art. MDC Museum of Art + Design in Miami, Asian Society Hong Kong Center and the Power Station of Art Museum Shanghai. Recently his large solo exhibition SHEN WEI: Painting In Motion included his painting, film, and dance on video exhibit at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston December 02, 2020–June 20, 2021. In the fall of 2015, he participated in a group show at London’s Fine Art Society: Performance & Remnant. Shen Wei’s recent large-scale painting series have received significant acclaim in the art world.

Previously the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award has been presented to Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Hanya Holm, Alwin Nikolais, Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Erick Hawkins, Twyla Tharp, Anna Sokolow, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, Trisha Brown, Meredith Monk, Anna Halprin, Fayard and Harold Nicholas, Pina Bausch, Pilobolus, Garth Fagan, Maguy Marin, Eiko and Koma, Bill T. Jones, Murray Louis, Mark Morris, Laura Dean, Ohad Naharin, Martha Clarke, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, William Forsythe, Lin Hwai-min, Anjelin Preljocaj, Lar Lubovitch, Lucinda Childs, Ronald K. Brown, and posthumously in honor of Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, José Limón, Pearl Primus, and Helen Tamiris.

Indoor and outdoor performances during ADF’s 89th season will be presented June, July, and September in venues in and around the Raleigh-Durham area. The full schedule can be found here.

Tickets to ADF performances will go on sale to the general public on April 26, 2022. Tickets will be available for purchase online at americandancefestival.org or through the Duke University Box Office at 919-684-4444 Tuesday & Thursday, 11am5pm.


Amy Hoppe

About ADF:
Since 1934, ADF has been a recognized leader in America’s homegrown art form, modern dance. ADF is committed to serving the needs of dance, dancers, choreographers, and professionals in dance-related fields.

The best companies in the world premiere work as part of the festival held each year in Durham, North Carolina. The festival has commissioned 453 works and premiered over 700 pieces including dances by Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor.

ADF trains dancers both with its summer intensive programs for pre-professional and professional dance artists and year-round classes for movers of all levels and ages. Choreographic residencies provide artists with the necessary space and time to create. ADF shares the benefits of dance with free workshops like ADF Project Dance, in-school and after-school outreach programs, and the Parkinson’s Movement Initiative, movement classes for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners.