Born in Hunan, China, dancer, painter and designer Shen Wei, is Artistic Director and choreographer of Shen Wei Dance Arts. At age nine, he began studying Chinese opera. From 1984 to 1989, he was with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company. From 1991 to 1994, as a founding member of China's Guangdong Modern Dance Company, he worked as a dancer and choreographer. After receiving a scholarship from the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab, he moved to New York City in 1995, where he formed Shen Wei Dance Arts in 2000.
Shen's work has been presented at major international venues and festivals, including the Lincoln Center Festival (2003-2005), John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2001 and 2005), American Dance Festival (1995, 2000-2006), Cal Performances/UC Berkeley, Spoleto Festival USA, La Fenice (Venice Biennale), Israel Festival, Het Muziektheater (Amsterdam), Holland Dance Festival, Dance Umbrella/Sadler's Wells (London), Sydney Arts Festival/Sydney Opera House/Melbourne International Arts Festival (Australia), Esplanade Festival (Singapore), Montpellier Dance Festival (France), Movimentos (Germany), Steps Festival (Switzerland), Luxemburg Festival, Lisbon Festival, and Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival. His work has also been staged by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal.
Over the years, Shen has garnered many awards. In China, he won first prize for both choreography and performance at the 1994 Inaugural National Modern Dance Competition. In the United States, he received a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts as well as the American Dance Festival's Ben Sommer Fellowship, both in 2000. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2001, the Nijinsky Award for Emerging Choreographer in 2004 and the 2005 Helpmann Award for Best Ballet or Dance Work. In 2007, he received the prestigious Mac Arthur Fellowship, a grant spread over five years, that awards the exceptionnal creativity of American artists.
Shen's work has been commissioned by the American Dance Festival (1995, 2000-2006), Het Muziektheater (2003, 2005), Lincoln Center Festival (2005), Alvin Ailey Dance Theater II (1996), Hawaii's Dances We Dance Company (1998), the Margrit Mondavi Center for Performing Arts at the University of California, Davis (2006), and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company (2000). His dance opera work, Second Visit to the Empress, was jointly commissioned by the American Dance Festival, the New York City Opera and the Het Muziektheater. In 2008, Shen Wei also contributed to the opening ceremonies of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing.
He also designs the sets, costumes, and makeup for each of his company's productions, creating a remarkable performance space that is variously described as a canvas, landscape, or parallel universe. The New York Times hailed Shen's vision as "painterly, mathematical and idiosyncratic...imagery and conceptualism with a difference."
As an independent visual artist, Shen is a painter, designer, and filmmaker. The paintings he created in conjunction with his ballet The Rite of Spring were exhibited at the company's 2003 Lincoln Center Festival debut and at the 2006 Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival.