Pure Physical Joy — A Spectator’s Review of TAO
(Photos of TAO Dance Theater works: “2” & “4”, photographer: Matthew G. Johnson)
TAO Dance Theater stunned me when its workshop toured to Shanghai last year. It’s the beginning of my addiction to the troupe and the week-end trip to Beijing just for its China premiere in NCPA (National Center for the Performing Arts).
Before, emotional disturbance was usually the only thing I could have while watching most China contemporary dance troupes’ performance. I think the disturbance came from their eagerness to express an idea as well as the way they presented it. But TAO Dance Theater is never eager to express anything solid. This unconventional troupe focuses its works on pure, absolute body movements, which reminds its audience of the simple physical joy they have long forgotten after puberty. An abstract form of dance.
When talk about their works, Tao Ye, the troupe leader, emphasized on their exploration of “possibility” of human body movement. As a devoted spectator, I sensed “spontaneous” rather than “intentional”. It seems there was no choreography beforehand and all moves came out naturally. No matter how the dancers bend their bodies into unimaginable gestures and positions, they seem like a bunch of carefree kids playing. I believe this is the nature of human dance, i.e. the primary body movement of all creatures on earth. I especially fancy their way of creating the work “4” — the dance came out first, then the music was created later for the dance. This must be the natural way for a born dancer to do choreography.
Although their dance requires utmost body-control techniques, the audience’s instinctive reaction is not like “Wow, how did they do that ?” as to a circus show, but “Wow, I wanna do that too!”. You feel something wild bursts out of your spine, spreads outwards along your limbs. Sure there’s no way for you to follow up indeed, but your body becomes frenzied and begs to be set free, to dance with them, to join them! The itchiness in the torso is torturing you from inside out, the unstoppable, irresistible physical craving is somewhat like intense sex arousal…
And when it’s done, it feels better than… an orgasm.