TAO dance theater

4&5

TAO dance theater

source: columbiaspectator

Chinese dance company TAO Dance Theater returns to New York this weekend with a U.S. premiere and the Beijing company’s onstage discipline. From Feb. 20 to 23, TAO Dance Theater will kick off the second annual Visions + Voices Global Performance Series at the New York University Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The series is an extension of NYU President John Sexton’s Global Network University initiative, created to bring the excitement and vast cultural and creative resources of NYU’s global sites to New York.

This year, the series focuses on China in coordination with the opening of NYU Shanghai. TAO Dance Theater will be presenting two pieces: “4” and “5,” the latter of which is a U.S. premiere.

“They’re extremely athletic, and it’s a powerful way to start things off. The imagery and the style is quite captivating. One of Tao Ye’s themes of his work is stripping away story telling. He doesn’t aim to tell a story, there’s no narrative,” Michael Harrington, the center’s executive director, said.

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“He really presents the body as a physical form. ‘4′ is extremely hypnotic. It’s very athletic, incredibly physical. The dancers have these black masks. It’s more about the human body and less about the individual dancers or any kind of story or emotion. It creates an environment, it creates almost a trance-like atmosphere.”

Because “5” is making its U.S. debut, Harrington said that he didn’t “want to give away too much, but the premise that … he [Ye] was playing with is a mass of bodies being connected to each other and never separating throughout the course of the piece.”

This form of abstract, modern dance may seem a reaction to standardized conventions imposed on Chinese dance starting with the Cultural Revolution in China in 1964. Xiaoxiao Wang, a graduate from Beijing Dance Academy who is currently pursuing her dance MFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, described her experience with Chinese choreography during her 12 years at Beijing Dance Academy.

“Everything should be representational and understandable for the audience,” Wang said. “They want to see virtuosity and technique presented by dancers on the stage. So I think our choreographers are constricted by our national identity.”

However, Tao Ye, artistic director, choreographer, and founder of TAO Dance Theater, said that his creation is based on neither the influence of others’ works nor his reactions to those works.

“It comes from a search for the source, or the truth. It’s a search for truth, an original truth. It’s a process of speaking with your spirit,” Ye said. “In China, or anywhere, if you do something political or apolitical, it’s not interesting. There’s no meaning in it, because that’s external. What you’re looking for is asking yourself, what do I want? What do I desire? That’s something real, and that’s what I’m choreographing, is that conversation.”

With his creative process, Ye said he focuses on the pursuit of quiet in a world that has become increasingly globalized.

“We know in the world too many things are happening at once, there is no time for us to go pay attention to all of it out there. We can only retain our focus back on ourselves,” he said. “Why did we stay in China? The purpose is to quiet down.

For Ye’s dancers, part of dancing for him is being able to find a quiet space.

“What I do is, first and foremost, make my dancers quietly spend more time in the studio. Their focus becomes on one thing,” he said. “Then that one thing can develop in a multitude of different directions. We start from a technical standpoint to bring it closer—from the body, from muscles and bones and breathing. So it’s a surgical process of opening up the body’s layers. But then of course you have to go to the joy of dance, the imagination, the awareness.”

Harrington was pleased with the success of last year’s series, which focused on Australia. Speaking of the connections made between the visiting performers and the NYU faculty and students, he said, “They’re continuing to talk and continuing to work together, and they’re developing internship programs for students to go down there, work with the artists, go into some aboriginal communities, and experience what the artists do on the ground. We’ve got some really exciting things as a result of this series.”
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source: ft

Tao Ye likes to designate his dances by number rather than name. After 4 comes 5, his latest to appear in the US: the 27-year-old choreographer behind Beijing’s six-member Tao Dance Theater is just getting started. And yet he is already a worldwide festival favourite and distinctive to boot, in spite of – or perhaps because of – his deliberately limited means.
From 2012, 4 restricted itself to four dancers moving in unison and in a tight cohort within the square of the stage. The dancers’ faces were blacked out, their gaze down, their spines never succumbing to the easy beauty of uprightness, and their voluminous costumes, full of folds and creases, were identical.
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Yet punctuating the unremitting likeness was a funkiness in the swirling hips and accordion ribs, a wilfulness in the flicker of the lower leg and jab of a heel into the floor, and an unpredictability in the drops to the floor. The effect was not to unravel the matrix of constancy so much as to heighten our awareness of its intricate texture.
The dancers in 4 may have shared all their steps but they remained distinct. By contrast, the performers in 5 each took a different part in a single roiling mass that rolled over and over itself in its progress along the stage’s perimeter. One person’s ankles, another’s calves, a third’s skull rose from the floor only to sink back to the floor, replaced by other ankles and calves.
At times, the ever-evolving and revolving formation suggested bodies ploughed into earth, the dark soil glinting with bare flesh and bone. Sorrowful and macabre passages in folk-rocker He Xiao’s bumpy score reinforced this terrible correspondence. At other moments, the rolling mound conveyed the amorphous and primordial, with apt accompaniment in a drone of voices as gravelly and low as a dragon’s sigh. One of the regular pleasures of Tao’s choreography is its allusiveness, but the oscillations in tone and reference in 5 left me disconcerted and exhausted.
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source: chncpaorg

Tao Ye Director / Choreographer / Dancer
Tao Ye graduated from the Chongqing Dance School in Chongqing, China, after which he became a performer in the Shanghai Army Song & Dance Ensemble. In 2004 he joined Jin Xing Dance Theater in Shanghai. In 2006, Tao Ye joined the Beijing Modern Dance Company. In March 2008 he founded TAO Dance Theater. Main work include: Weight X 3; 2; and 4. In 2011, he was invited to co-star in the film Blue Bone directed by Cui Jian with cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Du Kefeng). In 2012, leading Asian style magazine Men’s UNO awarded Tao Ye the 2012 Elegance Award and Sadler’s Wells (UK) named him one the of their “New Wave Associates” artists.
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source: facebook

Since its founding in 2008, TAO Dance Theater has taken China‟s dance world by storm. The company has performed in every modern dance festival throughout the country and has collaborated with leading Chinese artists across genres including theatre, experimental music, film, visual arts and installation. TAO has been featured in performances as well as choreography and teaching residencies in festivals worldwide, including Europalia (BE), Culturescapes (CH), M.A.D.E. Festival (SE), Singapore Arts Festival, and the American Dance Festival (US).

Founder Tao Ye danced with Jin Xing Dance Theater in Shanghai and then Beijing Modern Dance Company until he decided he was fed up and unimpressed with the work being created by established Chinese choreographers. He decided he could do it better – and at very least differently – than any of them, so launched out on his own. Dancer Wang Hao, a specialist in Mongolian folk dance and graduate of the Central University of Nationalities Dance Academy, joined him to found TAO Dance Theater in 2008. A third dancer, Duan Ni, danced with two of the world‟s leading modern dance legends – Shen Wei (US) and Akram Khan (UK) – before returning to China to work exclusively with Tao Ye.

No longer distracted by the “China hype” or the lure of living abroad, these artists focus all time and energy on their craft. Each possesses the highest level of technical virtuosity but these dynamos are not interested in tricks or artifice. Unlike other choreographers in China, Tao Ye eschews representational modes and is exploring form as content, investigating musical and physical interaction and experimenting with minimalism as well as layered patterns of gesture and spacial locomotion.

TAO Dance Theater has always devoted itself to the importance of dance education. The Company has been invited to teach at the China Central University of Nationalities, Beijing Languages University, Shaanxi Normal University, Yan‟an University, Henny Jurriens Stichtin in Amsterdam, Dance in Olten Festival in Switzerland, among other schools, universities, and festivals. They also offer regular open classes and workshops at, among other places, the Chaoyang District Culture Center, Fanxing Theater Village, and Beijing Contemporary MOMA Art Center.
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source: cvncorg

The American Dance Festival presents many tried and proven companies each summer in Durham, but each year there are also performers working at the far edge of the known world of movement. The first of these this season is TAO Dance Theater, appearing in the US for the first time. Tao Ye and Duan Ni (who has attended ADF as a student, and performed as a member of Shen Wei’s company between 2006 and 2008) danced their choreography, 2, on a white-covered stage in Reynolds Theater.

2 confounds and amazes. It is rare to be able to say, “I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” and really mean it. As the piece opens, the two dancers in mottled greeny-grey unitards and draped, bifurcated skirts (by Li Min) lie splayed center stage, close together but not touching, grey-covered soles of feet facing the audience. In this position, their shaved heads are barely visible, and the only skin that shows is that of the hands, which assume great communicative and supportive significance as they slowly begin to move. The first motions are tiny, easily missed: a flutter of fingers, a slight ripple of back. No music accompanies or motivates the action that suddenly springs forth. An arm rapidly rises and crosses the back with a flapping sound. A body suddenly flops over, slapping the stage. The dancers roll and arc without rising.

Gradually they twist into sitting and crouching positions, via many crossing motions of legs and arms. Crossing and opening, crossing and opening, they roll, twist and writhe with the limberness of babies. A humming drrrrrmmming sound begins (the music is by Xiao He). One dancer launches an almost-cartwheel. Did the sound cause the cartwheel? From deep, wide-legged crouches, the dancers creep, lunge and invert to handstands — with legs bent like those of frogs.

They fall and flop through a series of actions that reverse their stage positions. They never look at each other or at the audience, but they move with synchronicity that indicates deep awareness of the other.

Out of the recurrent silence, a louder sound — and the bodies lie still. Duan Ni rises for the briefest instant, then Tao Ye, before both flip and fall back. A great buzzing arises; the dancers’ hands close. They work around to the reverse of their first positions, now with heads out and feet vanishing upstage. In the silence, in their stillness, we hear their breathing.

A sudden, brief chord pierces the air, then crackling noise. Unexpectedly, shockingly, the dancers look sharply to the corners of the stage, then at each other. Seeing them see each other, the viewer feels pierced by that gaze.

Gong, crackle, reverb. High beeping. The dancers take oppositional positions and begin a slow, crouching creep. This is the only part of the dance that looks at all familiar — it is reminiscent of Butoh, but not nearly as slow.

Noise. Music. An arm upflung to the vertical. Legs open 180 degrees, spread sideways to form a straight line, the torso rising perpendicular. Into the even light (by Wang Peng) with its minimal, soft shadows, rides a long series of galloping thumps and the dancers move faster, almost rising, rolling over their shoulders, opening and crossing. Metal crashes; they lie flat, knees up, again like frogs. Buzzing, and suddenly an arm crosses and flops against a back.

An ascending hum, and they creep toward each other as the light slowly, so slowly, dims and yellows. A descending hum; the light fades to yellowed grey; the dancers still writhe and shift. A dripping, tapping sound. The zone of dim light narrows. By now it is a lighter value of the costume color. Crash, fizz, crash, crash, hoo, hah, pop. Darkness.

Sound continues without light. When the white light returns, the dancers are gone, and the sound becomes remote. Then there is singing, a loud chanting that grows louder. The dancers return, walking, and stand still while the chanting continues. It ceases, and they remain, quiet, motionless, purely vertical. At last they bow, forming two straight ells, torsos parallel to the stage. They vanish, leaving an indelible memory.

TAO repeats this extraordinary exploration of spirit-freeing corporeality on 6/21 and 6/22. See sidebar for details. If you attend, you may like to hold onto the magic by leaving before the house lights come up, otherwise the spell will be promptly broken by a person chatting you up about the ADF scholarship fund and asking you for money. This would be far better done before the performance.