Collaboration between the American Dance Festival (ADF) and the North Carolina Museum of Art brought to Greater Raleigh this week a unique arts experience -- dancers performing and creating artworks inside the art museum in an among its works of art. Undivided Divided is a large scale, site-specific performance piece by Shen Wei Dance Arts. Called an installation-works performance, it was originally created for a show at the massive Park Avenue Armory in New York, was been scaled down and adapted to compliment NCMA’s new west galleries.

Internationally acclaimed Chinese-born choreographer Shen Wei was the mastermind of the epic opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He is also the founder and artistic director of Shen Wei Dance Arts, a contemporary dance company which employs such mediums as dance, painting, sculpture, sound, theater and video to fuse influences from both Western and Eastern cultures.

Undivided Divided sold out four shows at NCMA on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights of this week. The innovative spectacle was played out among various galleries within the museum’s new building. Each performance ensued simultaneously, so it was up to the observer to amble through the various galleries experiencing different aspects of the performance at his leisure. The traditional relationship between the performer and audience was redefined as viewers wove around and through the performance spaces, experiencing the work from varying angles and distances.Being so close to the dancers, one could sense the energy of each body in motion. It was thrilling, and a much different experience than passively watching figures on a theater stage.

Most dancers were positioned on a square canvas of sorts, most containing a few blobs of paint. As ambient sounds, strange beats and indecipherable noises resonated from the gallery walls, the dancers began moving their bodies into graceful poses and contorted angles. At times their movements seemed primal, sometimes robotic, and other times controlled and refined, but always graceful.  As the dancers writhed on the floor or moved against one another, paint began to smear across their bodies and the canvasses below, creating a sort of living abstract painting. Within a few galleries large clear plexi-glass boxes housed one or two humans who slithered and revolved across the slick paint-covered surfaces, smearing color across themselves and their once-clear enclosure. The movements were dramatic, modern and dynamic, and there was a constantly new energy emerging from their vital sculptural forms.

The mesmerizing experience lasts a mere 45 minutes. Undivided Divided draws you in and just as you are becoming truly transfixed, it is over, and the dancers slip away just as elusively as they had entered the galleries, but this time to the applause and cheers of its appreciative audience.

Written by Creative Genius Katie.