TAO Dance Theater
4, being the third piece of choreographer Tao Ye’s “Numerical Series”, builds upon Weight x 3 and 2 in its characteristically meticulous reflection on the human body as a pure and symbolic creative element. Technically pioneering notwithstanding, 4 inherits the minimalistic outlook from its predecessors, and excavates still deeper layers of a new body-texture aesthetic. As the four dancers, standing in a diamond formation, whirl and slice simultaneously through a shared, external space and each of their own internal, private space, an orderly flow of transformations emerges from the dynamic picture. The four dancers never touch, but a powerful and seemingly magnetic sense of unity condenses itself around the mesmerizing, intersubjectively coordinated movements. It is as if a demonstration of the conservation of energy and the ultimate process of becoming depleted are contained in the dancers’ rhythmic and cyclical shifting of body weight in their uniform and circular movements.
In 5, 5 individual dancers retain a close physical connection that unifies them as strings to a rope for the entire duration of the piece. The knotting and unknotting of the body are interwoven in a stream of processual change of mutually supporting movements and body shapes. The interlocking and heaping of bodies seem to effect a living edifice, on which the multiform possibilities of spatial constructs and human limitations are explored in an infinitely complex fashion.
Music artist Xiao He fuses Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth in his composition for 5. From cosmic background radiation to esoteric mantras, from Baroque to Neo-Classicism, a free play between change and non-change creates an almost visible orchestra that complements the dance flawlessly.
Choreographer Tao Ye believes 5 to be a “piece that expresses one’s understanding of the world at large. Some see happiness and hope in this piece, some see oppression and despair; I see a universal principle: the myriad things in this universe are interconnected, interdependent and subject to the same principles. No matter whether I live or die, no matter whether humanity exists, this universe is imbued with an incessant life force. The cosmic outburst of active power has no end. That is what I call a principle.”
6 revolves around the spine to represent a return to the most primal active force “to move” as human beings. The manifold of space is slowly unwoven in the deliberate twisting and bending of the spine. A complete and holistic meaning is given to body movement as the dancers deliver each and every moving force from inside out – from the spine to the limbs and to the most minute muscles. Upper bodies and shoulders circle, as if in trance, to monotonous electric strings or meditative monastic drones. Heads are bent to the ground or raised to the sky. Rigid steps and angular turns alternate with loose swaying movements. Elastic lightness becomes rigid minimalism and takes on threatening martial aspects. In this process, ordinary movements of the body are condensed to the most essential motions. Designed by the famed Swedish visual artist Ellen Ruge, the streaming and interlacing lighting for 6 creates a fantastically dynamic play of light and shadow.
The human body is the sole channel of artistic exploration in the Numerical Series of TAO Dance Theater. Numerical Series is a project that is without narrative and is not driven by emotions. Rather, it studies the limits and limitations of the human body whereby a uniquely rational aesthetic and training system are distilled from a vital and energetic exercise of the human body which is structured around repetitions – it is only through repetition that the various kinds of limits of human movement could be adumbrated.
My past seven works in the Numerical Series, namely 2, Weight x 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, established a rigorous and progressive order in terms of both the artistic concepts behind each choreography and the types of body movements involved. This new work, 9, on the other hand, will seek to assemble, or perhaps even override this progressive order. Therefore, 9 will seek the origin through a series of “chaos”. Nonetheless, it is not yet determined whether this will mean the uncovering of a hidden disorder beneath an apparent, schematic form, or whether 9 will reconstruct an underlying interconnected substratum behind a chaotic surface.
The number 9 is significant in China’s cultural context – as the Chinese saying says, “as one progresses through nine multiples of nine hardships, one gets back to one”, which represents adversities, limitations, and a final revisit of one’s origin. 9, in relation to completed works in the Numerical Series, will certainly be an explosion of previously accumulated choreographic vocabularies, but it will also be a consummation of all conceptual undertakings of the entire series. 9 is therefore a crucial turning point in the Numerical Series – whether it will be the finale or the reset of the creation. The possibility of future work relies utterly on the careful completion of 9 , from which artistic clues and inspirations for my next artistic advancement are to be identified and gleaned.
Artistic Director, Tao Ye’s choreography also revolves around two things: a taxonomy of ways of initiating body movement, and the human capacity for self-discipline. As a result, a unique training system, the “Circular Movement System”, is developed for dancers at TAO Dance Theater. Each completed work in the Numerical Series is a choreographic and aesthetic extension of a form of movement taken from this system. 4 represents a relatively comprehensive collection of movements that grew out of TAO Dance Theater’s training techniques. But 4 falls short of adequately encapsulating the subtle connection between bodies in motion or the textural and structural details of an actively moving human body. The “Circular Movement System” has since been updated and extended substantially through the exploration and accumulation of the daily training at TAO Dance Theater.
9 will present a scene that summarizes, but is nonetheless richer than the enclosed and completed “Circular Movement System”. The connection between moving bodies will be extracted from this system, then reconfigured to form the self-identifiable choreographic vocabularies that constitute the movements of the nine dancers in 9. These movements will form a code-like connection between dancers by which various spatial relationships are represented. 9 will depart from the monist, dualist and multiple ways of expression, and present a relationship between complexity and simplicity, which asks each member of the audience to discover and construct possible connections within the choreography individually and independently.