6 & 9
Masterpieces of abstract beauty, a tribute to the potential and perseverance of the human body, these two pieces dazzle with their simplicity and virtuosity.
Tableaux of extraordinary fluidity, sparing and mysterious, 6 and 9 provoke an aesthetic and metaphysical shock. The young Chinese choreographer Tao Ye caused a sensation with this series where minimalist purity and rigour create a dream of eternity.
The titles refer to the number of dancers in each piece, and 6 and 9 are characterized by the undulating movement of the dancers performing in a space suffused with shadow and light. For 6, they create in perfect unison an enchanting meditative ritual, celebrating an obscure harmony in a state of hypnotic trance. With 9, the theme is individuals under tension, a plurality of bodies waltzing the chaos between harmony and discord. Tao Ye directs his dancers brilliantly, creating a magnetic, almost sacred presence. 6 and 9 fascinate and bewitch.
Produced by TAO Dance Theater
Choreographed by Tao Ye
Performed by Xue Mao (6 & 9) + Jinying Yu (6 & 9) + Li Huang (6 & 9) + Da Ming (6 & 9) + Jing Hu (6 & 9) + Yulin Yan (6 & 9) + Yunhui Jiang (9) + Qiaoqiao Zhang (9) + Huanshuo Guo (9)
Music Xiao He
Lighting Design Ellen Ruge (6) + Tao Ye (9) + Ma Yue (9)
Costume Design Tao Ye (6 & 9) + Li Min (6) + Duan Ni (9)
Lighting Operator Ma Yue (6)
Rehearsal Director Duan Ni (6)
Company Manager Wang Hao
Director of International Projects Jun Jun
Commissioned by NorrlandsOperan
With the support of Umeå 2014 European Cultural Capital + Swedish Arts Council (Stockholm) + Swedish Arts Grants Committee (Stockholm) + Region Vasterbotten (Umeå) + China Literature and Art Foundation (Beijing)
Co-produced and co-commissioned by Asia TOPA —Arts Centre Melbourne + Sadler’s Wells (London) + Théâtre de la Ville (Paris) + Théâtre Paris-Villette + Shanghai International Dance Center Theater + National Taichung Theater (Taiwan)
Presented in association with Place des Arts
6 premiered at NorrlandsOperan, 2014 European Cultural Capital, Umeå, on February 1, 2014
9 premiered at National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, on November 3, 2017
Tao Ye (Beijing) TAO Dance Theater
A rising star in Chinese contemporary dance, Tao Ye (born in 1985) is the artistic director of the TAO Dance Theater, established in 2008.
After graduating from the Chongqing Dance School in China, he successively joined the Shanghai Army Song & Dance Ensemble, the Jin Xing Dance Theater and the Beijing Modern Dance Company. From 2011 to 2013, he was one of the “New Wave Associates” at Sadler’s Wells. The Beijing News awarded him the 2013 Innovator Award for Dance. In Montreal in 2012, he presented 2 and Weight x 3 to sold-out houses at the Cinquième Salle in Place des Arts, as part of the Danse Danse series.
His company TAO Dance Theater has collaborated with several young Chinese artists as well as leading players in the fashion industry, such as the magazine VOGUE China. He has also established an international reputation, presenting greatly acclaimed shows in some forty countries on five continents. The recipient of prestigious awards and distinctions in China, the company also has a teaching program and works with major schools and universities.
A leading proponent of minimalist choreography, Tao Ye redirects the spectator’s attention to the essence of sensation and perception, presenting dance with pure lines in works named for the number of dancers performing in each piece. He is renowned for a bare bones, rigorous and formalist style that stands out sharply from the canons of current dance practice.
If indeed numerals have a symbolic significance in Chinese culture, why did you choose numbers as titles for your works?
A single word or phrase is insufficient to convey the meaning of a contemporary dance theatre piece. Titles can create preconceived ideas in the public mind, and limit creative direction.
My numbered series of minimalist, experimental works explores the potential of the human body as a visual element, freed from the limitations of representation or narrative. These pieces can give free reign to the imagination, leading to a wide range of interpretations.
By using numerals as titles, I hope to transcend the duality of abstract versus concrete thought. No specific words can express the meaning of a performance. On the contrary, my works are imbued with our conceptions of the body and physical practice. What the spectator’s eyes perceive is exactly what his or her heart hopes to express.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Laozi, founder of philosophical Taoism, wrote in his famous book Tao Te Ching that “The Tao gave birth to One (nothingness; non-being and being). The One gave birth to Two (yin and yang). The Two gave birth to Three (heaven, earth and man). The Three gave birth to all of creation. All things carry yin and embrace yang. By breathing together, they live in harmony.”
Your pieces in the numbered series were created using a unique training system, the circular movement system. What does it entail?
My training techniques, created in collaboration with the rehearsal director Duan Ni, come from our own dance experiences and our own personal styles. The system explores different methods of initiating force, such as momentum and rebound with gravity and weight, controlling imbalance by shifting one’s centre of gravity, the connectivity between joints and muscles, awareness of subtle adjustments in the space, changes in time and rhythm, and the contrast between internal and external becoming more concise, thus allowing the body to discover ever more diverse potential movement.
Confronted with various ways of exploring the body, Tao Dance Theater opted for the accumulation of repetitive movement to reveal the essential value of the meaning of human existence.
That leads to a never ending path, for each movement is embedded in the previous movement, and each leads to the next discovery of its most elemental particles. The company dancers had never previously been exposed to those techniques, and were like blank pages with great potential. My task is to inspire them with my techniques, to let them trace their own outlines in their own way. That, of course, takes a lot of time to accomplish.
Is there a desire to achieve a sort of eternal form through this constant resumption of the same movements?
I believe that artists create for the present moment or for eternity. Dance expresses the moment, but I hope to attain the eternal through repetition and time.
Repetition also represents the momentum of the dancers through a period of time: day after day, month after month, year after year. What we see onstage is a compression of their daily momentum.
Your works are inspired by the potential of the human body in a ritual of accumulation and exploration. Is the body your source of inspiration?
The piece 6 is based on research on the spinal column, which I believe is a dancer’s core. I wanted to concentrate on its movements and to explore with the dancers more possibilities of the human body. But while the body is central to my work, I believe strongly in the human mind, which I think is a major force that pushes the body to approach or even exceed its limitations.
Your pieces combine minimalist dance with complex choreographic research. What do you make of that duality?
I think that minimalism and extreme complexity can co-exist. My eight previous pieces established a rigorous, progressive order, whereas 9 is more of an assembling or a heightened state of that order, a beginning through a series of chaos. The number 9 is significant in the Chinese cultural context.
In China people say “Once you’ve gone through nine stages or nine ordeals, you go back to the beginning,” you progress through adversity and limitations and end up returning to the origin of each. It is only through a trial of strength between those two elements (single entity versus complexity) that extreme purity can be assembled and condensed. That formal work on the essence of movement and sensation is a return to the roots of dance.
“[An] uncompromising performance”
Mark Monahan, The Telegraph, 2014-10-24, à propos de 6
“You won’t forget it in a hurry.“
Paul Ransom, Dance Informa, 2017-02-22, à propos de 6&8
“If Tao Ye is an example of contemporary dance in China, we can be filled with hope for a startling and sophisticated future.”
Shelley Pinto-Duschinsky, Bachtrack.com, 2014-10-21
“It’s poetry in motion, and completely enchanting.”
Siobhan Murphy, Londondance.com, 2016-10-06, à propos de 6