Moon walk

Architecture and dance collide in this short film by choreographer Shen Wei and MAD Architects principal Ma Yansong

In Innerspace, the Chinese-American visual artist and choreographer Shen Wei and MAD Architects principal Ma Yansong have created a gripping short film in which the worlds of architecture and dance collide with fluid precision. It helps that the setting of the performance is Ma’s own Harbin Opera House, its white sinuous silhouette a perfect accompaniment to dancer Alex Speedie’s elliptical movements on the swooping rooftop and inside the swirling interiors. Lensed by Jake Mahaffy and scored by Simon Littauer, the performance is as much a reflection of how two seemingly disparate disciplines can accentuate each other, as it is a semaphore for the mutual respect of two practitioners at the top of their game. Indeed, both were drawn to the project by a mutual curiosity and fascination about how art forms can intersect.

Though their respective works are grounded in western training, their cultural identities are firmly eastern. In particular, Shen and Ma point out that the scale and architecture of the opera house is inherently theatrical in both its narrative spaces and its context within the landscape – so much so that the film seamlessly integrates human form, art and the building’s identity, while dramatically articulating the surrounding nature.

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).