Teens@Graham, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Photo: Melissa Sherwood
Teens@Graham, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Photo: Melissa Sherwood
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TAO Dance Theater

TAO Dance Theater

TAO Dance Theater
07/25/2012

Company / Show / Event
TAO Dance Theater

Performance Date
07/25/2012

Venue / Location
Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall

A bit about you:
(your occupation, the last time you moved, your website, etc.)

Please visit me at erinbomboy.blogspot.com

Freeform Review:

TAO Dance Theater: The Canvas Comes to Life


Tao Ye, artistic director of the TAO Dance Theater, doesn't need you to get it. In fact, there is nothing to get: no concealed meanings, no abstruse meditations, no heavy emotions embed themselves in his dances. Form is content. The function, well, that’s up to you. Tao embraces a crisp, concrete minimalism in which he constructs an engrossing study of what happens when an abstract, art canvas animates.

It could be boring, but Tao has some good ideas. In the first piece, 4, he arranges a quartet of women in a tight, diamond-shaped cluster. Resembling fashion-conscious warriors, the dancers sport baggy plus fours topped with asymmetrical tunics in dusty gray devised by fashion designer Li Min. Faces hide behind black masks.

Tao forges a compelling thesis of movement in 4. The dancers maintain a wide-legged stance, feet never collecting under their bodies into a neutral, stabilizing position. Steps lope and lurch while feet flex, arms punch, and rotary joints circle in large, breezy ellipses. Actions pour liquid-like through their bodies; the dancers, alert and energized, have a laid-back mien that makes them seem like hip-hopping cats. While they maintain unison, they are never in-sync. Each dancer injects a personal signature into the scripted movements.

In the second piece, 2, Tao and Duan Ni, a lissome female and his joint choreographer, begin belly-flopped on the floor as static fills the auditorium. Once the noise subsides, the two dancers fling assorted body parts into unusual shapes; each position lingers for a moment before abruptly shifting into a new pose. Spines scrunch, snake-like, as hips swivel and arms slap, smack, and stab.  Tao and Duan sometimes come to a complete stop for endless minutes, every nerve of their body focused as composer Xiao He’s score, a pastiche of noises, clamors and whirs around them. 
 
2 easily could have called 3 with the floor acting as the tertiary entity. Gravity exerts an insistent pull on Tao and Duan, forcing every upward-straining pose downwards, grounding and grinding them into the floor.  It’s riveting, like watching the sculptural possibilities of a fish that has just discovered some newly grown extremities.

TAO Dance Theater gives a mostly good, sometimes excellent, and nearly brilliant performance. Tao, at the dawn of what looks to be a stirring choreographic journey, is an artist, possessing a strong, intuitive perspective. He just hasn’t learned to gauge audiences yet. He eschews macro, global evolutions of his pieces in favor of micro changes that unfold like visual spark lines.
 
2, in particular, is an excellent premise, but at close to forty minutes long, it taxes the audience’s attention without any memorable payoff until its last moments, when the lights go off and the music continues to play. Most of the audience applauds halfheartedly and beats a hasty exit, weary of watching the same stuff transpire. They miss the actual ending when Tao and Duan return, standing, to the stage, and remain motionless until the music ends.
 
Next time stay in your seat. TAO Dance Theater, founded in 2008, may be a neophyte enterprise, but they're just going to get better.

 

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