Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TAO Dance Theater—Revolutionary Forms

5. Photo: Fan Xi
TAO Dance Theater slipped into New York last weekend as part of China: Visions + Voices at Skirball Center. I'd seen them previously at Lincoln Center Festival and Fall For Dance, when I'd been blown away by their kinetic invention and physical endurance and flexibility. 

The choreography, by Tao Ye, is an intriguing mix of completely anti-ego and highly theatrical. In the premiere, 5, five (yep) dancers in pale loose pants and long-sleeved tops (by Tao Ye, Duan Ni, and Li Min) lie in a heap and slip, slide, and roll over one another in circles around the stage, like a nest of writhing snakes. They complete perhaps seven or eight hypnotic loops. The pace is steady and amazingly controlled; not once does an errant foot or head hit the floor askance. Legs and torsos rise like whales slowly surfacing from the deep. 
4. Photo: Fan Xi
Near the end of the work, a couple of the dancers land on their feet for brief moments, alluding to the evolution of homo sapiens, only to sink back down and once again become intertwined with the others. Presumably the entire piece is carefully choreographed, or rules have been set on how to deal with feet avoiding faces and other unpredictabilities. In any case, the amount of experimentation and rehearsal time that went into crafting this is beyond comprehension. The lighting, by Ma Yue and Tao Ye, shifts from overall dim dusk to bright spotlight and variations in between. Xiao He's score evolves from distant foghorns and bell tones, to flute and plucked string passages, to strident piano lines. 

The group also performed 4 (choreographed by Tao Ye), seen previously at Lincoln Center. While predictably, in a second viewing it was diminished in novelty and surprise, it still made a powerful statement, especially paired with 5. (I wrote about previously it here.) From all they've done so far in New York, it's clear that every chance to see the company should be seized—it's a good bet that you'll see something completely new.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds amazing. It almost makes a person want to leave the huerta. I will keep an eye out for this group.