|Photo by Ian Douglas|
|Heather Olson, reluctant leader|
Tere O'Connor's Bleed fills BAM Fishman Space with 11 humble stars for the 2013 Next Wave Festival
By QUINN BATSON
Let the gush begin; Bleed succeeds throughout.
Heather Olson enters with calm concern, alternating birdy urgent movement with sinuous waves and moments of stillness, all to a softly ambient moving-train soundtrack. A shift to simple vocals brings solemn men and women onstage, and the basic elements are set individual, group, sound.
|TERE OCONNOR: BLEED|
|Choreography by: Tere O'Connor.|
Dancers: Tess Dworman, devynn emory, Natalie Green, Michael Ingle, Ryan Kelly, Oisín Monaghan, Cynthia Oliver, Heather Olson, Mary Read, Silas Riener, David Thomson.
Music by: James Baker.
Sound design by: James Baker.
Costumes by: Walter Dundervill.
Lighting design by: Michael O'Connor.
Cello: Chris Gross.
Voice: Julia Read.
Percussion, vocals, other: James Baker.
|BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)|
Dec. 11-14, 2013
Cello music and beautiful, quirky movement sweep subgroups around until Olson gasps and collapses. A pair of women check her before leaving, seeming more concerned with the disruption than the person on the floor. These concerns will flip by the end of the piece.
Four beautiful boys prance in a sort of swirling procession, to monk-like choral voices that lend a religious order feel. One dips and whips his head and hair. This gives way to a courtly full-group dance, tender and formal, until all as one yell "hoah!" and stamp backwards in a big circle, like a tribe.
Tribal or religious, the feel of an ancient rite strengthens as a white-haired boy lies on a slab of light in the middle of the group, and hand drums and raindance elements spring up. Then, oddly, all but the boy take a break, strolling and murmuring softly to each other as after a funeral, until they rush back to assume attack poses around him, either threatening him or threatened by him.
|Photo by Ian Douglas|
|Front L-R: Silas Riener, Michael Ingle, David Thomson|
Back L-R: Oisín Monaghan, Cynthia Oliver, Olson
If one thing strikes most deeply in Bleed, it is the way eleven widely varying individuals make such a cohesive group. There is no pretense that a group has to look or even act similar to be a healthy whole, and this is refreshing. Shifting partners and forming/dissolving subgoups also feel fluid and natural, and healthy. Tenderness strengthens as people raise fallen comrades and interactions feel care-full.
At the same time, the power of an individual to sway the group is clear. Olson sweeps her hand and people move like eddies of dust. The white-haired boy (Oisín Monaghan) sings a single, vibrating high note and all seem to hear and listen to his message.
Formality and serious ritual are prominent, but play slips in to keep things moving. A duet of playful or serious chase picks up people until the whole group is skipping then running. Tongues in cheek or out are either group silliness or a new form of communication.
And, mapping or matching the tempered restraint and bursts of energy of the performers is James Baker's music, simple but rich. It shapes and follows the arc of the piece well. Excited X-jumps get clangy energy; silence gives soft partnerings room. Elements of movement and music leave and return in shifting pairings.
Elements like the lighted slab and "hoah!" reappear briefly toward the end and wonderfully percussive instruments bring the tribe together. In an understated climax, bursts of driving beat, that unstopped could create a dance party, alternate with aural softness; the combination encapsulates the tender-tough quality of Bleed and sets up an ending of all holding hands in a snaking, silent group, "oh" mouths looking to the heavens as soft choral voices usher in the darkness.
When the lights come up, it seems that Tere O'Connor achieves his Choreographer's Note goals, a rare achievement both for putting choreographic thinking on paper clearly and for creating the dance that illustrates that thinking. Roughly paraphrased: as ripples on still water stay distinct but also merge with others so quickly that we forget the origin of any, each piece of Bleed passes and disappears yet remains part of the whole. "Simultaneously remembering and forgetting [three] previous dances" to build this culminating piece is O'Connor's deft description of his process, but without seeing the previous three, Bleed makes sense on its own.
|DECEMBER 16, 2013|
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