Artistic & Executive Director
Philein Wang, award winning Chinese- American Poet/Choreographer and distinguished Executive Director, leads ZiRu Dance. Over the last half century, Wang herself has firsthand lived through racism as a native of Oakland, California and has developed multi-decade deep ties to African American, Asian American and Latino American communities. Philein leads with her intrinsic level of understanding as to how one experiences racism in this country. ZiRu is a company continually committed to bringing to light how we can grow and evolve in positive ways. This process of growth and healing from difficult and hugely biased/racial/shocking events and environments in the U.S. and worldwide is at the core of ZiRu Dance’s Mission. This Vision is also evident in the work created and supported by the company.
Philein’s exploration of her Chinese-American heritage led her to create a new dance form for the Chinese body and identity. Her goal is to build cross-cultural bridges, uniting generations of immigrants through a unique blend of dance elements from Asia, Europe, Africa, and America, in tandem with original music. Using a distinct combination of influences – modern dance, ballet, martial arts, and hip hop – she hopes to create something unique to offer Asian Americans, so they have a way to feel at home in their bodies and minds.
“When a young Chinese person is feeling confused as I was, and looking for answers to the question, ‘Who am I?’ maybe this dance can help them find their identity, their culture, and their strength. Help them know where they belong.” – Philein Wang
Philein (her Chinese name, Zi-Ru, means “freely, smoothly and fluidly”) was born in Michigan to Chinese and Taiwanese parents, and raised in California. She studied at UCLA, the prestigious Beijing Ballet Academy, and privately with Zhong Ren Liang, who performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Philein also studied martial arts under Patti Hao Li, Beijing Wushu Team’s five-time champion, and received scholarships to the American Dance Festival and the Lewitzky Workshop. She was a soloist with several companies, including Janice Garrett, Ron Brown, Winifred R. Harris, Liss Fain Dance, and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. She also received choreography mentorships from the late Bella Lewitzky and Lin Hwai-Min, Artistic Director of Taiwan’s world-renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.
Music is as much a part of Philein’s work as movement. In 2005, she released her well-received debut album, Child of No Nation, which was recorded on two continents and in three languages (English, Chinese, and French).
In 2011, Philein served as a judge for the Sing Tao/World Journal Dance Expo. In 2016, she was recognized as an honoree at the first ever Asian and Pacific Islander Heroes of San Mateo County reception. Nancy Pellegrini of Time Out Beijing said, “Wang herself is a force of nature, raising money, creating projects, and sharing the stage with artists of every stripe. And that alone is well worth a look.” Pellegrini added that the multidisciplinary artist has a “…staggering level of broad-based talent… whatever you do, don’t miss her show.”
When she’s not directing, choreographing, or raising her young family, Philein is dedicated to finding new investment partners and community partners to support the company. Philein is also a partner at SV2 (Silicon Valley Social Venture Philanthropy).