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The 2023 Lion awards for dance
Dance -

The 2023 Lion awards for dance

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to movement artist Simone Forti. The company TAO Dance Theater is the Silver Lion.

The awards

Simone Forti, a seminal figure in American Postmodern dance and performance art whose constant innovation involved all the arts, is the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the Biennale Danza 2023.
The TAO Dance Theater, founded in 2008 in Beijing and quickly contended by the major festivals and theatres, have been awarded the Silver Lion.

The Lions were approved by the Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia at the recommendation of Wayne McGregor, Artistic Director of the Dance department, and will be conferred during the 17th International Festival of Contemporary Dance which will take place in Venice from 13 to 29 July 2023.

Simone Forti

As Wayne McGregor writes in his motivation for the award to Simone Forti:
Simone Forti has compiled a body of work – from performance, drawing, film, video, photography, installation, and texts—that is astonishing in its range and singular in its vision. An innovator in multiple mediums and expert dance improviser, Forti’s art has often combined elements of movement, sound, and objects into new and surprising hybrid articulations - work that has been as seminally influential in the development of post-modern dance as it has been revelatory to minimalism.
Self-defining as artist or movement artist rather than being bound to the conventions and orthodoxies of ‘choreographer’, Forti has moved freely and seamlessly between creative worlds, wildly mixing disciplines and in doing so, championed the primacy of body, or rather ‘thinking with the body’ as a force for experimentation, play and (re)invention.
Forti’s work has been collected in major museums and collections globally; her nature-based improvisatory dance techniques, first transmitted by Anna Halprin, are taught to eager students desperate to connect to their own essential dance power, a power that recognizably sits at the heart of Forti’s daring dancing; and the conceptual strength of Forti’s 60-year trajectory, its rigour of idea and simplicity of execution, its sly wit, its unending curiosity - all cementing Forti’s legacy as a true arts genius, constantly surprising the imagination and invigorating us - the public, to see again to reach back into the (Forti) past to move forward into the (Forti) future. A legacy unrivalled and how grateful are we”. 

Simone Forti participated in the Biennale Arte 1980 (39th International Art Exhibition) in the section dedicated to Art in the 1970s – film and video productions of artists working in performance art curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, Michael Compton, Martin Kunz, Harald Szeemann; while the Biennale Danza 2018 featured An Evening of Dance Constructions, the film that presented the radically new dance pieces that Forti had performed in Yoko Ono’s loft/studio in 1961, a series later reconstructed at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2004.

TAO Dance Theater

Traveling across 40 countries on 5 continents, the members of the TAO Dance Theater led by Tao Ye and Duan Ni have presented their works in institutions and festivals such as the Lincoln Center Art Festival in New York, the Edinburgh International Art Festival, the Sydney Opera House, the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, the American Dance Festival, fascinating dance audiences and 500 million TikTokers with their dance degree-zero.

“Forsaking narrative, message and elaborate stage design in their work ­– states Wayne McGregor in his motivation –Tao Ye and Duan Ni have built a unique and evolutionary dance genre that has enraptured with a mesmeric, minimalist force. Their company TAO Dance Theater, founded in 2008 has committed to a stripped-back, “pure dance” aesthetic, eliminating any categorisation of movement, and by extension, of themselves. The body is presented as an element to be perceived for its optical allure – devoid of representation, narrative, or context, simply existing as an object alone. This is only ever amplified by the use of light and sound design, allowing the viewers to be confronted and often challenged by the rigorous body focussed techniques, vocabulary and forms.

It is this confidence in the power of movement alone (and developed through their innovative Circular Movement System), with all its latent potential and expressivity, its nuance, elegance, idiosyncrasy, limitation and restriction that demands us to watch and watch again – to learn the hidden syntax and to really ‘see’ as if experiencing bodies and indeed dancing for the very first time - in all its spectacular wonder, elegance and direct visceral, kinaesthetic communication. 

TAO Dance Theater is an exceptional company of vision, mission, and purpose. Like the great dance makers of the past, they understand the very nature of body as a ‘microcosm of the universe’ and have found their special territory to explore and expand. Their deep dive here, in this unfamiliar territory is ingenious, significant, and edifying as we are simultaneously embraced and provoked by their brilliance”.

TAO Dance Theater will be at the Biennale Danza 2023 on July 28th and 29th with three new works in their European premiere performance at the Teatro Malibran, three choreographic works that continue the sequence of the Numerical Series that launched them on the international scene, titled 11, 13, 14.


The Lions of previous editions

In the past the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Dance has been awarded to Merce Cunningham (1995), Carolyn Carlson (2006), Pina Bausch (2007), Jirí Kylián (2008), William Forsythe (2010), Sylvie Guillem (2012), Steve Paxton (2014), Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (2015); Maguy Marin (2016); Lucinda Childs (2017); Meg Stuart (2018), Alessandro Sciarroni (2019), La Ribot (2020), Germaine Acogny (2021), Sabuto Teshigawara (2022).

The Silver Lion, dedicated to promising young artists in dance, or to the institutions that have distinguished themselves for cultivating new talents, has been awarded in the past to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (2010), to Michele Di Stefano (2014), to Dana Michel (2017), Marlene Monteiro Freitas (2018), Steven Michel and Théo Mercier (2019), Claudia Castellucci (2020), Oona Doherty (2021), Rocío Molina (2022).

Biographical notes

Simone Forti (Florence, 1935) lives and works in Los Angeles, where she emigrated from Italy in 1938 to escape fascist, anti-Semitic persecution.  Her career as a dancer began in the second half of the 1950s when she took part in Anna Halprin’s “Dancers’ Workshop” in San Francisco, experimenting with a new working method based on improvisation, free from the codes of modern dance. In 1959, she moved to New York with then-husband Robert Morris, and studied with Robert Dunn who introduced her to the work of John Cage at the Merce Cunningham studio. In New York, she debuted as a choreographer in 1960 with two dances in the form of a happening - See-Saw and Rollers – and in 1961, Five Dance Constructions and Some Other Things, an evening at Yoko Ono’s loft. These Dance Constructions joined movement and structures for the first time, using everyday actions such as running, climbing, and standing in ropes. The Dance Constructions revolutionized concepts of dance and movement and was a strong influence on the members of Judson Dance Theater, including Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and Robert Morris. She also worked with artist Robert Whitman, performing in the happenings Flower (1960), American Moon (1960), and Prune Flat (1965). In 1968 she presented her minimalist multimedia pieces Face Tunes, Cloths, Songs, Bottom, Book, and Fallers. From 1968 to 1970, she lived in Rome, where she was invited to show her Dance Constructions at Galleria L’Attico by Fabio Sargentini, who also invited her to take part in the Festival Danza Volo Musica e Dinamite together with her American colleagues Trisha Brown, Deborah Hay, Yvonne Rainer, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Terry Riley, and David Bradshaw. For many of them, it was their first European appearance. Also for Sargentini’s L’Attico, Simone Forti created Sleepwalkers, a performance inspired by animal movements she observed at the Rome Zoo. Back in the United States, during the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Forti developed an improvisation practice based on the relationship between words and movement (now known as Logomotion), and her News Animations, speaking and moving on political themes. In the same years, she founded the group Simone Forti and Troupe, and worked with artist Nam June Paik. A total artist, during her career Simone Forti has dedicated herself to drawing, film and video, photography, installation art, and writing.
Her works and performances have been shown in the major museums of the world: MoMA, Gugghenheim, Whitney Museum, P.S.1 (New York); Hammer Museum, Getty Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art/MOCA (Los Angeles), San Francisco Museum of Art, Centre Pompidou, Musée du Louvre, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporaine (Paris), Carré d'art at Nîmes; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid), Kunsthaus (Zurich), MAMCO (Genève), Kunsthalle (Basle), Hayward Gallery (London), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), Centro Pecci (Prato), Fondazione ICA (Milan), Galleria L’Attico (Roma), Stedelijk (Amsterdam), and many others. A complete solo exhibition of the Italian-American artist’s work is on display at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles through April 2nd.


TAO Dance Theater is a contemporary dance company founded by Tao Ye, Duan Ni and Wang Hao in Beijing in 2008. It is the first contemporary dance company in China to be invited to perform at the Lincoln Center Art Festival in New York, Edinburgh International Art Festival, Sydney Opera House and Theatre de la Villie in Paris. It has also been invited to perform at the American Dance Festival (ADF) and served as resident artists. Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, UK, commissioned the company’s five works and invited the company to perform in London for six times.
The works of Numerical Series created by the company with simple creative concept and simple body aesthetics have toured all over the world on five continents, in more than 40 countries and over 100 different art festivals. In terms of diversified cross-border and exploration of performing arts, the Numerical Series and Non-numerical Series works of the company have been invited to perform cross-border in different spaces, such as the ruins of the ancient Roman arena, the Paris Fashion Week Show, the Singapore Museum of Art and Science, the Aranya Seaside Stage, the Concert Hall of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the Beijing International Design Week. At the 2015 Paris fashion week, the company was invited to conduct on-site cooperation with the Y-3 Brand of Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. In 2019, the company and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre set jointly produced "Exchange" and toured more than ten cities in China. In 2021, the self-made "Infinite Walking" was listed on the Tiktok hot search list for several weeks in a row. Tens of thousands of netizens imitated the body-free-walking style, and the relevant videos were played nearly 500 million times. “Time Out New York” named the company’s performances one of the “10 Best Dance Shows of 2014,” the only company on the list from Asia. In 2021, TAO Dance Theater established DNTY art extension brand and TAO Studio. The former released the inspiration of artists with the design concept of "clothes should follow the body", combined with the creativity of diversified performing arts such as clothing, music, dance and image, derived and shared the dancers' dressing aesthetics and lifestyle. The latter "pays attention to more people's bodies" and launches the course of “Circular Movement System”, so that more people can find that "the body can still move like this", feel, experience and explore the infinite possibility that the body is like a kaleidoscope.