A Wen Wei Dance production. At the Scotiabank Dance Centre on Tuesday, February 19. Continues until February 23
Wen Wei Wang has always had a keen eye for dancers, and for his gorgeous new work Ying Yun, he’s recruited a stunning quintet of young female talent.
Stéphanie Cyr, Sarah Formosa, Eden Solomon, Eowynn Enquist, and Daria Mikhaylyuk are able to handle his demanding mixture of strength and grace. In this meditative ode to women, and his own mother, Wang shifts between beautiful deep back arches and warriorlike squats, and punctuates balletic turns with high, powerful kicks.
The soundtrack, by Sammy Chien with Wang and the dancers, helps cast the spell, mixing everything from women’s whispers to crashing waves and ticking clocks to haunting electroacoustic strains. There's a spellbinding moment when Chinese singing echoes with piano and children playing in the street. So much of this sequence and other parts of Ying Yun feel like abstracted memories, fading in and out—fragments from Wang’s childhood in Xi’an.
The work begins subtly, the dancers moving in unison, bathed in pure white and breathing together in the quiet, evoking the rhythmic release of chi gong. The women seem aligned in some strange ritual, tapping a collective energy. The movement builds, and so does the soundscape, climaxing in a stylized lunar eclipse on the projected back screen.
Through it all, the women come across as quietly forceful, but somewhat mysterious and unknowable creatures. Wang crafts striking phrases, full of flickering surprise—some of his most sophisticated work to date. At times, you feel like you’re in a strange new dimension, where arms bend on odd angles, bodies lean and turn perilously off-axis, and heads glitch back and forth.
By the end, with Ying Yun now taking on red light, a hospital-monitor-like red bar working its way up the back screen, it adopts a more unsettling tone. Wang seems to be confronting death—his mother died from ovarian cancer four years ago.
Striking a hypnotic tone, Ying Yun has an appeal that goes beyond the fact that it is just beautiful to watch. It is that nothing is ever literal—memories, imagery, and movement meld into an abstract vision that exists in a place beyond words. And, fortunately for Wang, he has the talent on hand to take it there.