Journal

Seattle Times review: "Tere O'Connor's BLEED mesmerizes, surprises" Nov 22, 2014

by Erin

Alice Kaderlan breaks down BLEED at the Seattle Times:

One of the greatest challenges for a choreographer is knowing how long a dance should be. The current trend to hourlong non-narrative works performed without intermission can sometimes strain a viewer’s attention with unnecessary repetitions and lack of coherence.

In “BLEED,” prominent American choreographer Tere O’Connor has succeeded in creating a riveting ensemble piece that never flags over its 60 minutes. From an opening solo by Heather Olson to a final group tableau, “BLEED” provides a fascinating exploration of the interactions among human bodies in motion.

One of O’Connor’s greatest talents is in interweaving his 11 talented dancers into ever-changing patterns. Sometimes they form a daisy chain as though making a human braid, sometimes they run or jump in unison and sometimes they do their own thing with one dancer twisting this way and that while another falls to the ground.

Each performer is distinctive and each brings his or her special qualities to O’Connor’s inventive style so that even when they’re dancing the same steps there is enormous variety in visual effects.

The elegant Olson, who’s been dancing with O’Connor for years, brings a ballerina’s grace to even the jerkiest movement, while Oisín Monaghan’s mass of white-blond curls give him an otherworldliness that makes his every action eerie. When he falls flat on his back in the work’s final moments, it’s as though a pagan god has succumbed to death.

O’Connor foreshadows that ritualistic ending earlier in “BLEED.” Monaghan periodically lies on his back while the others dance around him or simply stop and stare. If it’s not clear what the ritual is about, that just adds to its appeal. But when “BLEED” concludes, Monaghan’s demise seems logical and fitting.

James Baker’s original sound design — a blend of classical-inspired music, clanging machines and human vocalizations — enhances the mystery. Its intermingling of percussion, rain, wind and silence provides natural transitions among the work’s many sections and reinforces the ritual nature of the choreography.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of “BLEED” is the way O’Connor constantly surprises us. Just when you think you know what’s coming, he abruptly changes mood or direction. The ensemble suddenly stops twirling and begins a series of duets and trios in different parts of the stage, then moves seamlessly into a static “u” shape. At another point, a moment of extreme seriousness gives way to near-slapstick. It’s almost as though O’Connor is daring us to look away, then punishing us if we do because of what he offers next.

Read the review at the Seattle Times.

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