Tao Ye has been rapidly promoted as a choreographer of international stature. It’s fair to say that his work is challenging. The two pieces performed make fearsome demands on the dancers: physically, and in the requirements of stamina and memory. The dancers – astonishingly skilled and rigorous – meet these challenges. But how much is the challenge worthwhile for the audience?
Weight x 3 consists of 3 sections performed to fast-paced percussive music by Steve Reich. In Part 1 the two dancers have linked wrists but it’s not really a duet - movements are mirrored but the dancers don’t interact. Part 2 is a display of repetitive spear skills that would put a Game Of Thrones character to shame. Part 3 is, again, two dancers independently mirroring each other.
5 is a dance of group interaction: the dancers entwining their bodies to repeatedly circle the stage. The dance is reminiscent of a slow motion film of a wave or a drop of water on a hotplate.
The dances are self-contained and impersonal. The lasting impression is of watching the workings of a machine, or a maths formula played out through computer graphics.
Is it worth the challenge? These abstract patternings do not produce an uncovering of the spiritual or existential. The programme note by Graham Watts describes Tao’s choreography as ‘human structural engineering’ and audiences must be prepared for the sacrifice of human emotion and interaction in the pursuit of this rather icy ambition.