Under the artistic direction of Tao Ye, Tao Dance Theater has created a series of works called the Numerical Series. The intention of these is to explore the limitations of the human body and this double bill is a continuation of that.
The opening work, 4, is an exercise in synchronicity and stamina. The four dancers, in a tight diamond formation, move as one; their stance wide and low, arms swinging heavily in response to the motion of their bodies. As the a cappella voices of the soundtrack fade and the rhythms slow down, so do their movements, though they remain relentless.
The result is mesmeric, if ultimately numbing. The dancers’ faces are disguised by black masks so there is nothing to latch on to but their movement. That may be the intention of the work, but even when the sweat begins to bleed through the light grey of the dancers’ loose clothing, it’s hard to connect with the humanity beneath the unyielding focus of this four-person machine.
Meanwhile, 9 continues Ye’s exploration of repetitive, relentless motion, but this time there is an increased sense of space and openness. Spread across the stage, nine dancers fall and tumble. Their clothing is lighter and less structured, their faces exposed. Each dancer moves as an individual yet they act as one, as if caught by the same breeze.
Ye’s work is pure in both movement and intention. The dancers give their whole selves to his vision, performing with a focus and commitment akin to a state of meditation. As powerful as that is, there remains a sense of disconnect. These two works simultaneously offer everything and nothing.