Choreographer Tao Ye talks precision, the human body’s limitations, and his work 6 & 8.

Asia TOPA has just kicked off in Melbourne, and with it comes a variety of art from our country neighbours to the north. A collection of amazing performances including Tao Ye’s 6 & 8, originally featured in Paris Fashion Week.

These two distinct dance works amazingly precisely the same in their execution. For these performances Tao Ye has insisted that dancers maintain precisely the same distance from one another, to preserve a beautiful set of motion and pattern. It’s a regime which has made Tao Ye’s TAO Dance Theatre one of the most globally in-demand dance companies in the world. We were lucky enough to chat to Tao prior to the performances here in Melbourne.

Hi, Tao! First off, I noticed in your work that your choreography is always very precise. Why is that?
The inspiration behind my choreography comes from the movement of the body. During rehearsals, I interpret the movement of the body into a language. It’s like what you see from your eyes. Everything we see can be interpreted as a language. From birth, we can see and then we can interpret the experience to speech. So, we use the body to express our whole life and also to explore more stories and language.

In the 2 performances that you are bringing to TOPA, 6 & 8, I read that your dancers are very precise about the distance they keep between one another. How difficult was it to coordinate that?
6 and 8 may be difficult for the audience to read or understand. One reason might be because I decided not to use any movement of the arms and legs. The only movement is from the spine.

Is that a challenge for the dancers?
It is difficult, indeed. We also have our own training technique and training system, but it takes at least half a year before a dancer can have the skills to perform such fine movements.

In that case, the dance must showcase a lot of the human body’s limitations. Did you discover new ways of moving the body when developing both 6 and 8?
I discovered the technique through movement research at my rehearsal studio. After the rehearsals, I took out the special characteristics of the technique, and then I came to create the new works. I used the good quality movements and good quality techniques.

Photo credit: Zhang Shengbin

And, what was it like to work with Xiao He, the composer of the music you choreographed your dance to?
We’ve already worked together on 5 different projects, so we have a very good relationship. But, it’s also getting very difficult now. We’ve been working together for so long that the pressure is also increasing. The most important condition of our working together is that we need to find new ideas and new concepts. So, now we are trying to explore new ideas and go beyond our old work.

Finally, what do want the audience to take away from the performance?
I would like the audience to take from it an understanding of the origin. The original understanding. My work comes from lots of dimensions and lots of communication. I want the audience to discover a smaller and simpler world. I just present my little, very simple world on the stage, and leave the audience to explore their own general world for my understanding of my work.

TAO Dance Theater’s “6” and “8” is performing from the 22nd to the 24th of February as part of the Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial festival. Many great works are being put on as part of the festival Asia. More info is here. Tickets to TAO Dance Theater’s “6” and “8” can be found here.

Many thanks to Emily Wood for her help on this interview.

Feature photo credit: Andreas Nilsson