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Against the metronomic ring of the glockenspiel, Fu Liwie and Mao Xue hold hands and lean in. They pace, in flowing costumes, to the sound of Steve Reich’s Drumming, Part Four. A leg lifts; heads roll and sometimes loll, and the music seems to quicken. The pair stick fast to Reich’s phasing rhythms, blurring into their frequencies.
Mind-pummelling visual rigour such as this, combined with faultless execution, has fast-tracked the minimalist dance of Tao Ye’s company on to the world stage – 18 projects are touring during 2015 alone. In this programme, five dancers carry the spare, internally focused qualities of his choreography in two pieces, Weight x 3, and 5 (his work is usually named by number only, Weight x 3 being the exception).
Weight x 3 came early, premiering in 2009 when Tao was only 23. It comprises three panels of sculpturally drawn, abstract dance containing two duets and a centrepiece solo, atmospherically lit on a bare stage, and devoid of surplus emotion or physical surface design. Throughout the spotlit solo, Duan Ni twirls a long, thin stick into an infinite whirling circle, while the couple (Mao Xue, Li Shunjie) beat a path together with eyes cast firmly down – an odd and risky pose.
After the interval, we are led briefly back into TAO time and space, by a rib joint of the five dancers, sitting arm-to-arm in a tight row. They dismantle to become a single pulsing blob, a multi-limbed organism moving across the stage. As the progression repeats, things become a little hallucinogenic – is it possible to see a glimpse of a universe in a deconstructed group of five humans on stage? It might be.