FTA Review: Double bill “6 and 9” a mesmeric, meditative contemporary dance creation

The spectacular festival opener by TAO Dance Theater plays at Place des Arts through May 25th

Tao Ye’s ‘9’ © Fan Xi

Opening the 12th edition of the Festival TransAmériques in Montreal is the double bill of 6 and 9 by Tao Ye, artistic director of the eponymously named TAO Dance Theater of Beijing – one of China’s leading forces in the contemporary dance world. The series here makes its North American premiere, playing three performances between May 32rd and 25th at Place des Arts’ Théatre Jean-Duceppe.

The ceremonial 6 and 9 triumphantly explore and experiment with time, repetition, balance, gravity in poetic choreography that is deceptively simple. ‘Minimalist’, perhaps, is the best descriptor for these two mesmeric, meditative masterpieces that are at once of a rigorous mechanical finesse and an organic fluidity. It’s a collective work of beautiful but ruthless discipline (which, even at bows, is never abandoned) – and one that asks reciprocating concentration from its audiences.

Tao Ye’s ‘6’ © Marco Feklistoff

The titles refer to the respective number of performers in each independent piece (Ye explains the use of transcendent numerals as an allowance for free reign in interpretation of the work). Both bare-bones, abstract physical compositions in the production are characterized by serpentine corporeal movements of the elastic dancers, whose powerful waves and meticulous lines hold to their hypnotic circuit with an atmospheric score (by Xiao He) while bathed in overhead shafts of light and shadow (by designers Ye, Ellen Ruge, and Ma Yue). The effect is sensorially engrossing, with none of the design elements being either overpowering or subservient to the choreography.

Tao Ye’s ‘9’ © Fan Xi

‘6’ is unequivocally the more aesthetically arresting of the two standalone pieces due to the ensemble’s breathtaking synchronicity, precision, focus, and stamina. Paradoxically static and dynamic as they plant themselves in the formation of a single diagonal line, the sextet progressively bend and twist and turn from the torso with striking technical virtuosity while hardly moving from the floor. Ye’s unique circular movement training system, language of expression, and performative style transpire and inspire in this fixating creation – a testament and a tribute indeed to the extraordinary kinetic potential (and poignantly grounding limitations, even) of the human body.

‘9’ is equally enigmatic, but contrasts with the more formalist and ritualistic order of its predecessor with its chaotic texture and structure. The theme of the creation is that of individuals under tension, but the particles here are no longer fully subjugated to the whole. The shape-shifting performers roam in a free-flowing, mercurial way while still harmoniously acceding to a certain unitary framework.

Utterly exquisite and exhilarating in its concept and execution, ‘6 and 9’ is an infallible selection for audiences looking for their physical theatre fix at this year’s fest.

The 12th Edition of the Festival TransAmériques presents


Tao Dance Theatre | Beijing

Place des Arts – Théâtre Jean-Duceppe
(175, Sainte-Catherine West, Metro Place-des-Arts)

May 23, *24, and 25 at 8 p.m.
*Meet the artists after the performance

1h15 including intermission

$45 to 65

514 844 3822 | 1 866 984 3822 | www.fta.ca

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