IT’S like an octopus curling its way across the sea bed, except this beast has ten legs not eight and ten arms as well.
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Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street
Titled 5, the five dancers of the Tao Dance Theatre form one constantly rolling body throughout the second half of this extraordinary performance, choreographed with the pinpoint accuracy of a precision engineer by the company’s founder Tao Ye.
At no point in the 25 minutes or so of the piece are the dancers out of contact with each other and rarely are they raised above waist height as they repeatedly circuit the stage as one in a complex sequence of gymnastic holds, lifts and manoeuvres.
The pace never changes from dead slow motion, despite the increasing intensity of the soundtrack, and the level of control is such that at no point does the movement descend into squirming or writhing.
Dressed in tee-shirts and loose cargo pants, the intricacy of the arrangements means it is difficult at times to tell male from female and with the rigid adherence to the tempo the performance is unquestionably sensual but never sexual. It’s like the opposite of Sting’s infamous tantric sex.
What does it all mean? Tao Ye isn’t prescriptive; indeed, he says that “no words can express the meaning” so you can make of it what you want. But beautiful it certainly is.
The first half, Weight x3, is, as the name suggests, split into three pieces, all marked by the same discipline and extreme recall needed to make the second half work.
The first and third parts, both for two dancers, are triumphs of concentration, for with the monotone soundtrack from revolutionary American composer Steve Reich and no eye contact between the performers there are few reference points to guide the performers.
Least successful of all is the solo pole twirling routine of the second part because it lacks context, even though the skill is clear.
It’s not a spectacular show by any means, but it in its simplicity it’s unquestionably mesmeric in a ritualistic way and a testament to the dancers’ mental stamina.