Choreographer: Tao Ye
Director: Duan Ni
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
The artistic development of choreographer Tao Ye has been impressive. Founding his own company a little over 10-years ago, he has developed his own distinct style of dance, a training regime known as the Circular Movement System. Since then his Numerical Series has stripped his works of narrative structure and straightforward meaning to explore the possibilities of movement and flexibility on its own terms.
After a brief association with Sadler’s Wells five years ago, he returns to the venue with his 2012 piece 4and his a more recent 2017 work 9that explore Ye’s recognisable style in two seemingly opposing piece, one focusing on unity, the other on chaos. Aside from the similarities of individual movements, 4and 9have much in common, not least their grey-tones androgynous staging that seems to place the dancers in an inescapable void.
4is marginally the more interesting piece, largely for its shifting moods and interpretive cultural references to the number four. The masked dancers move entirely in harmony, replicating each other’s movements exactly, a singular mass who never need to communicate directly. Their synchronicity is fascinating, and it is a remarkably physical performance, the dancers never stop, never tire, each continuous movement flows into the next for 26 unrelenting minutes.
There are four dancers and four sections indicated by changes in music that alter the mood. The dancers are trapped in an endless struggle, yoked to one another and as the lights dim in the third section, the allusions to the four seasons and the four ages of man start to form. The changes of speed, the fast-paced opening section replaced by a more contemplative second half draw a direct line to the four figures in Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time, a reference to which Ye’s choreography gives a modern twist.
9by contrast is a wilder piece, dancers with individually choreographed movements creating a very different overall effect. The initial impression is one of controlled chaos, different activities, speeds and heights happening around the stage simultaneously, implying a level of individuality and self-determination that later phases of this 20-minute dance start to challenge.
Look closer and you notice a symmetry in Ye’s staging, pairs of dancers are almost the mirror-image of one another, replicating particular shapes or twists at the same time. Similarly, the company occasionally move together in one direction with a wave-like effect, as they converge to the same physical point but quickly separating once again. Each dancer may seem alone but there is a blankness is in the performances, empty vessels that seem to be controlled from outside of themselves.
Together 4and 9are an engaging evening of dance, full of unusual technique and approaches that explore the nature of community and the individual struggle. Dancers Huang Li, Ming Da, Yan Yulin, Zhang Qiaiqiao, Guo Huanshuo, Fan Min, Liu Xichao, Yi Yi, Hua Ting, Fu Liwei, Mao Xue and Yu Jinying have astonishing stamina and flexibility, guided by choreographer Tao Ye whose work continues to redefine dance forms.
Runs until: 25 May 2019 | Image: Fan Xi