Tao Dance Theatre in '6 - The Sami Chinese Project'. Photo © Andreas Nilsson

Tao Dance Theatre in ‘6 – The Sami Chinese Project’.
Photo © Andreas Nilsson

Dansstationen, Palladium, Malmö, Sweden; February 10, 2014

Maggie Foyer

“6 – The Sami Chinese Project” is the culmination of a two year collaboration linking the vast, barren spaces of the Arctic tundra to Beijing, a bustling metropolis that is home to millions. TAO Dance Theater choreographer and artistic director, Tao Ye, his six dancers and musician Xiao He, connect their talents to Sami musicians, Axel Olle Sigurd Andersson and Simon Issát Marainen. In this meld of Mongolian lamentations, contemporary Chinese dance and Sami yoiking a unique work is born. Despite the variety of elements the work captures the imagination with its simplicity and depth.

It opens in empty darkness barely illuminated by dim grainy light. The sounds of He’s string instrument awakens the senses as the six dancers lined up diagonally, feet apart, each dancer’s foot linked to the next to create an organic whole. For the next 40 minutes this corporate ‘dancer body’ writhes in rhythmic unison. The movement seems to originate from the head, as necks stretch and eyes search out new focus. The energy descends to the torsos which bend in powerful waves; bound yet free, minimal yet varied – the sort of endless rhythmical cycles that Steve Reich or Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker employ so effectively. The effect is hypnotic, then shattered in a startling moment when the line, as one body, simultaneously switches around to face the audience.

Tao Dance Theatre in '6 - The Sami Chinese Project'. Photo © Andreas Nilsson

Tao Dance Theatre in ‘6 – The Sami Chinese Project’.
Photo © Andreas Nilsson

While the dance holds to its mesmeric circuit, the music finds its own path. Andersson joins He’s melody, creating percussive metallic sounds on a maverick array of instruments to be followed by the powerful, haunting voice of Marainen. The music, like the movement, seeming both as old as time yet strangely, as contemporary as today.

For the final section the dancers remain in a static group on stage as Tao Ye executes a solo in his distinctive choreographic language: minimal, subtle and full of nuances while surprising in its energy. The power of the piece is tangible and alive to the moment. It sits somewhere on the cusp between a spiritual experience and a dance event and is uniquely memorable.