Tere O'Connor unveils BLEED at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Tere O'Connor talks about collapsing three dances into one for his new BLEED at the Brooklyn Academy of Music



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That’s a pretty expansive space for you, right?
The beginning? It is. It’s kind of like an archeology. You’re digging for something—you’re brushing dirt off it, but it’s not there until you brush away the dirt. It’s being created at the same time you’re looking for it, and it’s a very odd space to be in. It’s a great space—it’s altered my world view, totally, by doing that all the time. I do that with things that seem factual as well: Is that really that? What other messages are coming from these things that aren’t determined by my first reading of it? And my work is really a storm of that kind of sensibility. Maybe even promoting it as a way of looking at things on earth. [Laughs] The poetics of that is a corrective way of seeing that’s not quite so pragmatic. More and more, I basically observe until the end and then I go, what I call “Edward Scissorhands” on it [He holds his fingers like scissors and snips the air.] and bring the structure into being. But I’ve been considering that the whole way. I guess it’s born out of each work based on the best way to structure it. But I’m looking for that the whole time I’m working. And I’m right in the middle of that right now.

Does it keeps you up at night?
It does, but not in a bad way. I don’t mind it. I’ve committed to the same way I remember dances, in little moments and shards. I’m not looking to correct that. That’s what I want the product to be like. It’s not assimilated as a whole thing. There might be a story floating through it, or each person creates a new triangulation of elements and is choreographing the work again. So I’m not trying to create a tyrannical message, I’m setting up the best pinball machine of memory for your ideas to ricochet around in with mine. That’s why it’s so difficult sometimes when people are like, “I don’t get it, I don’t get it!” I don’t even feel rancorous about that; I just feel, for some audience members, I’d like to say, “You’re getting it.” The it isn’t the same as getting it in a Hollywood movie; it’s a different kind of it, and you might not be used to taking in information in this way. So you don’t know how to value it, perhaps.

Or pay attention in the same way?
Yeah. Or have multiple pathways of attention as the arrival point. I’ve created this phrase, the nexus of irreconcilability. I am not setting out to make dance works that put differences together and resolve them. I’m working inside of a constellation of things that coexist. I’m looking at the nature of the coexistence, not how to cure it. Or to see what wins.

Which dance came next?
Poem. I wanted to go back to formalism. Some of the formalism—my own—that I worked with in the past. And poem is a work I made entirely by myself. It was an older way of working for me—the structuring of the dance becomes the character of the dance. The people aren’t necessarily enacting emotional states; I’m engaging the structures of poetry to look at recontextualization. How things exist outside of normative uses. The same way a poem might recontextualize words, dance recontextualizes the body. I was also allowing dance to be really frontal. It’s very much a dance that is working from movement and a relationship to historical forms, ballet and others, that is no longer concerned with critique. It’s just an acceptance that any form is possible. I’m not engaged in a discussion of it historically; it’s an assumption of living now that those are all available. And I’ve been thinking about how in dance, because people want to hold onto something, they’ll see that as the crux of the discussion, which I want to go past. Think of the English language: It’s a polyglot language, and if you take the word enough,  the “ou” sound is from medieval English and the “gh” is coming from something Germanic, and you don’t say in the middle of someone talking, the “ou” is from this time. It’s just assimilated. I’m not trying to create a history on the discourse of dance forms, I’m just using them. They’re assimilated for me, but they stick out for viewers sometimes. That’s a hard thing to bridge. They do have various meanings for me, but I’m not looking to critique their presence on earth.

So why use that vocabulary at all?
Because it’s in me. I learned a lot of ballet, but unlike a lot of younger people who are working from a place of saying no to everything, I am more interested in allowing things to be there. Not everything is an expression of my taste in my work. So I’m not saying, “Here are the best things I can think of.” Things are problematic in there as well as refined. Ballet represents a lot of problems for me in my life and in my work and in the world, but it’s in the fact that it’s there. It’s not an external discussion of it. It’s one of the categories of differences I was talking about before. I might go from a ballet section or a ballet movement to a moment of complete absurdity or a moment where the body itself releases all its muscles and does something different: That’s the language that I’m working in. The sequence of things in order; what they do to each other, how they collide and how they create new ideas. It’s never about any of the single components.

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