Pieces of Eight Choreographer Highlight: LeeWei Chao

Given the safety protocols put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, our junior company, OBT2, has adapted to the prevailing challenges by adding new projects and programming. This year in addition to a daily ballet technique class and supplemental classical training, our OBT2 pre-professional dancers experienced working with an exciting group of accomplished choreographers to develop innovative work for our Pieces of Eight project debuting during OBT2 RAW at the end of April.

We recently connected with Pieces of Eight choreographer and OBT School faculty member, LeeWei Chao, to get a closer look at how the pandemic has affected his work.

OBT: Has your choreographic process changed during the pandemic and if so, how?

LEEWEI: I usually ask dancers to create their own improvisation, or recreate phrases of mine as part of the piece. However, due to the absence of face-to-face working with dancers and limited time, I have to skip the dancers’ improvisational input.

OBT: With all the limitations imposed by the Phase 1 guidelines on spacing, partnering, and wearing masks, what is it like teaching the dancers during this time?

LEEWEI: I miss the physical contact and partnering among dancers. More importantly, I miss the sense and synergy, which emerges from each individual’s voice and inspiration.
OBT: Can you tell us about the piece you’re working on with OBT2?

LEEWEI: It is called Night Stroll and is about the journey from beginning of the pandemic until today – fears, anxiety, reaching out, hope, and appreciation.

OBT: What music have you selected, and what drew you to it for this piece?

Tabula Rasa by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It draws me in, because I see fears, anxiety, reaching out, hope, and appreciation in this piece of music.

OBT2 dancers Abigail Concannon, Tatum Quinonez, and Rachel Nash shared with us what their experience was like working with LeeWei, and the challenges they overcame while learning choreography and training via zoom.

Enjoy this excerpt from a work When Fog Meets Clouds created by LeeWei Chao for OBT2 last season. It was intended to be presented at OBT School’s annual On Stage performance last June. Due to Covid it was not debuted. OBT School Director Marion Tonner asked LeeWei to film it as part of a special project for the dancers this season.

More about LeeWei Chao:

Lee Wei’s choreographic works have been performed by Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Nouveau Colorado, Oklahoma City Ballet, New Mexico School of the Arts, TCU Residency and more. He received a National Choreography Recognition Award from Regional Dance America in 2014 and prior to joining the OBT School faculty, LeeWei taught at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, LINES Ballet Training Program, LINES Ballet Summer Program, LINES Ballet BFA Program Dominican University, Stanford University, National University of Taipei, Taiwan, ODC Dance San Francisco, San Francisco State University, Smuin Ballet, and more.

Stay Tuned!

We will continue sharing insight into each choreographer contributing to Pieces of Eight. Keep an eye out for blog features on, OBT founder & choreographer James Canfield, New York choreographer Tamisha Guy, OBT principal Peter Franc, OBT company artist Makino Hayashi, and OBT School faculty Phillip Carman. Along with surprise pop-up events this fall and winter, Pieces of Eight will be performed in full during ACT II this spring as part of OBT2 RAW.

Photography credit: Jingzi Zhao

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