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REVIEW: TAO DANCE THEATER

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 1 DECEMBER 2015 — Created in China in 2008, the Tao Dance Theater has become one of the most exciting companies on the contemporary dance scene today. Fascinating and original, choreographer and founder, Tao Ye, never stoops to provocation nor to the stomping on and off stage of troubled young people which abound in so many modern pieces. Freed from both Western and Eastern gimmicks, he has created his own aesthetic language with his exploration of pure movement. The presence on stage at the Théatre de la Ville in Paris of his superb dancers in his latest creations, 6 and 7, interpreted respectively by six and seven men and women, was both hypnotic and intense.

While both pieces possess theatrical force, it was the spectacular opening scene of 6 which left the greatest imprint on one’s mind. After minutes of pitch blackness, it slowly became apparent through the semi obscurity that what initially appeared as a single organism was moving backwards, sideways and forwards and vibrating as with a single heartbeat. As one’s eyes became accustomed to the gloom and with the increasing volume of the atmospheric score by Xiao He, the moving mass was seen to be six androgynous figures, their feet firmly rooted in the ground, hips, chests, shoulders and necks undulating, moving in perfect unison, their hair thrown to the wind.  Their feet, legs, arms and hands rested immobile.


Tao 6
Choreography: Tao Ye
Photo: Andreas Nilssona

It was impossible to determine the sex or the costumes of the interpreters and while Tao Ye’s choreography is supposedly minimalist, what we saw on stage was not, as the dancers dominated the entire scene, their costumes, dark dresses with large, rectangular skirts taking the place of décor, and with the hypnotic, pulsating score almost a physical presence. By moments there was almost silence, a silence unaccompanied by all the habitual shuffling, snuffling and coughing noises from a mesmerized audience.

The dancers repeated the fluid sequence of movements with remarkable athletic control, rolling their heads, then dipping backwards and forwards. What left a lasting impression however, was that while deprived of a narrative and devoid of any relationships between them, a powerful surge of emotion was nevertheless present and the spectator taken to another world.
 
From the darkness of 6, 7 (for 7 dancers,) transported the viewer into a startling world of luminosity and light.


Tao 7
Choreography: Tao Ye
Photo: Fan Xi

Against a stark background, the interpreters, unearthly beings, were clad in brilliant white, long, elasticized robes. Their bodies repeated impossible curves, in perfect unison, to a sound score of their own making. Feet again planted firmly on the ground, their hands apparently attached at hip level, they hummed, at first softly, but then gaining in intensity, they caught their breath, gasped heavily, barked even. They ebbed and flowed, pitching forward, tilting sideways. They moved in waves, swaying as reeds in a river. A much shorter work than the precedent, the impression it left was more visual than emotional.
 
Both works were faultlessly executed and with their extraordinary control and limitless energy the dancers, all in their early twenties, were amazing. Tao He, at only 30 years of age, has not only created a new way of moving, but he also has a lot to say. He knows how to hold his audience and take them to where he wants them to go. Devoid of sentimentality his work has a definite charm of its own.

Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.



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