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

Tere O'Connor performs at the BAM Fisher

Tere O'Connor performs at the BAM Fisher Photograph: Paula Court

In the two years following the premiere of his 2011 Cover Boy, Tere O'Connor created four new works; or rather three—Secret Mary, poem and Sister—that collapse to form BLEED, which runs at BAM Fisher Dec 11–14. BLEED incorporates the dancers from the three previous works—including Sister's Cynthia Oliver and David Thomson—but none of the exact movement. It's an experiment in structure that reflects O'Connor's poetic, choreographic and world views.

For BLEED, Tere O’Connor takes inspiration from himself—specifically three dances he created over the past two years: Secret Mary, poem and Sister. “It’s a continuation of me looking at the poetics of choreography on my terms,” he says. O’Connor is not blending the dances, but rather choreographing a fourth work that incorporates all the dancers from before. At 11, his cast is large and, fittingly, mirrors O’Connor’s expansive vision of dance.

Of the three pieces, what did you start with?
Secret Mary. One of the things that I work from inside of any given work is what I call categories of difference. All these different modalities, be they dance styles, idea places or areas of inference come up, and they don’t necessarily resolve: They just exist as differences inside of the work. This is an extrapolation of that idea. I would make three works that were sourced very differently and have completely different products and then see what happens as they become a fourth product.

Could you talk about them individually?
Secret Mary was one where I was looking at my life as a teacher and a mentor, which is deeply influential for my work. Not necessarily with traceable artifacts, but it is. I’m in a constant state of asking younger people difficult questions about their work, and I have to [do that] in kind; these people challenge what I’m saying or their work challenges what I’ve thought already, so I’m really in the swim there. So I thought I would commit a work to thinking about that, even though nothing that I do is a full expression of its source material. It started there. These guys are all people that I’d been mentoring or just had old-guy–young-person relationships with.

Who is in that piece?
Ryan Kelly, devynn emory, Tess Dworman and Mary Read. On the first day I said, “Let’s perform the piece: It’s 35 minutes long.” They did an improvisation and from that, we analyzed and extracted ideas to construct the work.

What were some of the ideas?
They were about the interrelatedness of the people. Maybe an unfortunate question that’s always there is what’s moving toward story or away from it? Or moving toward representation or not? What kind of politics are engaged in the embodiment of certain things? It’s those kinds of discussions. Ultimately. I constructed it; some of the material is from them, and some is from me, but then we pushed it back to being a constructed work. There is still some improvisation in it. It represents the beginning of making a piece, so if Secret Mary is the first in this long process coming to BLEED, it embodies the first ruminative part of making a work for me. It’s a product that is born of that.

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