48 HOURS: When you set up your company TAO Dance Theatre in 2008, you were only 22. What was going through your mind then? TAO YE: I might have been 22, but I wasn’t exactly a young person just entering society. I already had experience with three dance companies at that point. I knew a lot about the state of modern dance, and I attempted to find a way forward in that environment. When I started the company, I didn’t worry too much, or doubt myself. I just went in the direction that I wanted to take. It may be more difficult to do that in today’s environment, though. Your company will be performing the pieces 4 and 5 at the New Vision Arts Festival on October 31and November 1. The dancers in 4 move in a fixed formation without ever touching each other, but those in 5 appear to be stuck together. What’s behind this conceptual rigidity? That’s the philosophy behind my Number series. For every piece, I look for a starting point and then develop it. I try to take it to its extreme. I don’t add more ideas, and I expand the point in a very pure process, during which I cut out more and more elements. This could be the opposite of how the more popular methods of choreography operate today. You’re using a quartet of dancers for 4 , five dancers for the piece 5 , and six for 6 . Will you keep choreographing in this numeric way? I have no plans to change this idea at the moment. There are a lot of aspects about the body that we still want to explore. It’s not common practice in modern dance to title works with numbers. Has anyone called it pretentious? I don’t think there is a creative format that is still entirely fresh today. What I see is the substance. All the labels used in contemporary art forms, including the modern and the postmodern, are given by others. Regardless, I think all my works must stay true to myself. Your works are notable for their minimalist aesthetics. Why did you settle on this style? There’s a prevalent phenomenon in this era — and this exists in every profession and not just dance — that people talk too much and do too little. That’s why, when I create my works, I decided to come back to the starting point. I want to do more and say less. My pieces take a horrendous amount of time to rehearse. They may not have much of a message to convey but are certainly a process. Your wife Duan Ni, a key member of TAO Dance Theatre, has danced for established choreographers like Shen Wei and Akram Khan. Do her experiences have an impact on what you do? Not at all. I rejected the conceptual method from the start. There are already too many successful choreographers in the world who are coming up with all sorts of ideas and pieces. I also reject inspiration. Regarding the two masters you mention, I did feel an impact when I watched their works. But I’m toning down that inspiration in order to do my own works. When I talked to Lin Hwai-min a few weeks ago, he said you are “not just the best choreographer in China, but one of the best in the world”. What do you think of this? I’m deeply moved. It’s a great reward for my effort. My work involves the exploration of the body and the expression of its values inside the theatre space. What I work with is a concept and the process is like a ritual — this path would become increasingly difficult and lonely if not for the recognition of Lin and others. Loneliness is the most frightening prospect in this day and age. I’m very lucky to have these people’s support.