Philein Wang, Artistic Director/Founder of ZiRu Dance, has created new dance works since the company’s founding in 2007. Wang was born in Michigan to Taiwanese and Chinese parents. As she explored her own Chinese-American heritage, she was motivated to build ZiRu Dance with a core mission of cross-cultural collaboration between the US and China. Her inclusive mission has established a trajectory of company culture that prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion. These pursuits have led her to create a new form of dance for the Chinese identity that combines modern dance, ballet, Chinese martial arts (wushu), Tai Chi, and hip hop. Over the last half century, Wang has lived through racism, firsthand, growing up in Oakland, California. This experience of otherness fostered her deep personal, artistic, and professional ties with African-American, Latino-American, and other Asian-American communities.
Now, as a resident of Redwood City, California, Wang furthers her study of how movement can intersect with her community by building strategic partnerships with Peninsula-based non-profit organizations. These relationships inform the content, direction, audience, and impact of the work she choreographs, commissions, and curates. Of equal significance are her on-going relationships with the artists that contribute to her process. Through tailored mentorships, Wang has nurtured the voices of the artistic talent around her to infuse the resulting work with a more nuanced and broader perspective.
When creating new work, Wang identifies a need or a gap in her community and seeks partnerships with organizations and individuals who can provide access. Wang is motivated by a desire to express and thereafter, heal. Dance can speak to us and for us on a visceral level by connecting our mental, emotional, and physical intentions in a kinesthetic (and often cathartic) experience. Our bodies hold the key to uncovering learned patterns of behavior. Wang seeks to interrupt destructive repetition and, instead, build a language that centers the body as a healing agent. There is always a research period that takes the artists outside of the studio space and engages understanding through listening. Wang seeks input from professionals in related fields, people within the real-life circumstances she’s researching, and feedback from her dancers and other artistic collaborators who are working alongside her. This is then synthesized into movement inside a studio where dancers are asked to embody Wang’s phrase work as the work is refined. Wang is deeply interested in the intersection of other modalities: live music, poetry, visual art, martial arts, theater, film, virtual reality, and other new technological advances. This curiosity allows her to play with the final presentation in ways that reinvent the structure of the final work.