Asia TOPA Review: Tao Ye’s ‘6’ and ‘8’

Tao Ye’s ‘6’ and ‘8’ are a feast for the senses and might even make you re-think what contemporary dance is capable of. Tam Tran reviews the show.

Tao Ye’s TAO Dance Theater in ‘6’. | Photo by Andreas Nilsson

The audience slowly sank into silence as the lights went out at Arts Centre Melbourne. The curtain raised, revealing nothing but complete darkness. A slow melodic tune began filling the room.

There was no introduction, no grand entry.

Then, suddenly, six dancers shrouded in darkness, began to move in unison. The lights slowly came back on, but only very dimly, and revealed the six human entities, all wearing black; their faces hidden in the shadows.

This was Tao Ye’s ‘6’.

The dancers intensified, their heads rocking back and forth and their bodies swinging side to side. Every bit of movement changed in accordance to the shifting tempo. They possessed incredible flexibility and stamina during these performances.

But the true highlight would come when they suddenly stopped moving.

It was as if time froze, and the auditorium was filled with complete silence. Six powerful forces instantly turned into six orbs, making absolutely no movement.

And it is in this still moment that Tao Ye skillfully creates a distinct contrast between moving forces and still images, capturing the audience’s attention the moment all movement has ceased. As the dancers stood up in slow-motion, they then created a beautiful illusion of growth. As a dancer myself, I could feel that Tao Ye’s ‘6’ begin to unravel me; deconstructing my understanding towards dance and proving that slow and still motion could be more impactful than big movements.

Tao Ye’s TAO Dance Theater in ‘8’. | Photo by Zhang Shengbin

‘8’ commenced shortly after, with a setting that sharply contrasted with the previous ‘6’.

Eight dancers in grey attires appeared on a brightly lit stage, lying on the ground with their feet facing towards the audience. Throughout the whole performance, they remained on the ground, using their bodies to create captivating images and illusions. The movements of their feet and arms were limited, but there was certainly no boundary to the visuals that these dancers created.

Moving with incredible fluidity and synchronisation, they created an illusion of a moving floor, rotating back and forth. Another mind-trick was incorporated as the dancers gradually moved from the front to the back of the stage, without the audience noticing. With compelling images and illusions, Tao Ye’s ‘8’ pushed through limitations of the human body to create a visual feast.

Both ‘6’ and ‘8’ were presented in a very minimalist setting, relying solely on the dancers without using any external props on stage. And the show ended just as it began, without a formal conclusion and leaving the interpretation of the performance up to the audience. In both performances, the dancers were never physically connected, yet they remained in an exact distance from each other and moved in such synchronicity, creating the existence of an invisible force that pulled them together.

Simply put, Tao Ye’s ‘6’ and ‘8’ were two of the most stirring and visually intriguing dance pieces that I have ever seen, and they surely will be ones that I will never forget.

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