Philein Wang, award-winning Chinese/Taiwanese American poet/choreographer and distinguished Artistic Director, leads ZiRu Dance, a BIPOC nonprofit dance company that amplifies BIPOC voices and harnesses the power of dance as a catalyst for social change. Over the last half century, Philein has firsthand lived through racism as a native of Oakland, California and, as a result, has developed deep ties to African-American, Latino-American, and other Asian-American communities. She is dedicated to the intersection of arts and healing through her choreographic work and emphasizes showcasing BIPOC performers onstage and giving BIPOC artists a creative outlet to be seen and heard.
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.
Guided by Philein Wang’s vision, ZiRu Dance has achieved success in its many local and international ventures since its inception in 2007. In 2014, ZiRu Dance received key support from the US Department of State and the US Embassy in Beijing for exchange between American dance artists and Chinese communities. Since then, ZiRu Dance has produced 28 tours, commissioned 18 works and sponsored over 50 education and outreach events. In 2020, we again received support from these departments to develop Renewal, a year-long project dedicated to dispelling feelings of xenophobia and isolation in response to COVID-19.
Now, as a resident of Menlo Park, 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.