Marks for originality in 6 & 8, which saw groups of dancers move as though one entity. In the first half we see six dancers, in the second half eight, hence the show’s title, and in one sense that’s as complicated as the story gets. In neither part does any dancer leave the stage. Deliberately lacking in plot, this production is something of a reviewer’s dream: there are no spoilers to be wary of because – technically speaking – nothing actually happens to anyone. There’s just movement and more movement to be enjoyed.
With no discernible character development (not a negative or a positive point, merely an observation) some other aspects of the production inevitably come under closer scrutiny. The music, particularly in the first half, was far too jarring. The first of two movements before the interval reminded me of going to a school Christmas production and hearing the discordant strains of pupils clearly very much still in training playing violins with varying degrees of ability. The second seemed to me to be a wall of noise, too repetitive and unchanging irrespective of whether the dancers were in full flow or in slow motion.
First impressions do count, and for at least the first few moments the lighting design was disappointing. The stage was so dark it was impossible to appreciate what was going on as the dancers flickered in and out of visibility. The dark costumes did not help matters, and while I appreciate this is an intentional artistic decision, if a performance cannot be seen properly, it cannot be recognised and enjoyed properly either. I did wonder at one point whether anyone would have noticed if the dancers had, for seconds at a time, simply stopped dancing. Perhaps they did, who knows? Later, when there was eventually more light, there was indeed some good dancing to be seen.
It was odd not being taken on any sort of journey. There were no exceptional moments to speak of either. Continual movement being the name of the game here in a demonstration of general bodily flexibility and considerable energy. The second half, though better than the first, if anything because the lights were on throughout, had dancers lying down and performing horizontally. A fair number of the movements in this section were nothing short of extraordinary, even if overall it gave the impression of being a cross between an exercise regime and an almighty struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
This short but intense production holds some appeal in its ability to captivate its audience to analyse quite what the human body is capable of. As I say, there aren’t any stand-out performances to note, as the company relentlessly moves together as one from beginning to end. I personally found it too monotonous after a while, but this style of contemporary dance is certainly experimental and distinctive.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Formed in 2008 by Beijing-based choreographer Tao Ye, TAO Dance Theater is known for its mixture of art forms, including film and visual art, creating work that has a mesmeric, trance-like quality.
In the “high concept and thrillingly simple” (Evening Standard) 6, six dancers move in dynamic and hypnotising unison, in a shifting landscape of light.
Tao’s newest piece and the final section of the Straight Line Trilogy, 8, sees the eight dancers lie instead of standing, restricting their bodies to the floor and limiting their movements to the range of their spines.
Acclaimed Beijing-based choreographer Tao Ye returns with two pieces, showcasing his mesmeric, trance-like style.
TAO Dance Theater – 6 & 8
3rd and 4th October 2016 at 7.30pm