BLEED, an innovate work by Tere O’Connor, features eleven dancers at the forefront of New York’s contemporary dance scene. All are esteemed choreographers in their own right and involved in cross-disciplinary collaborations with visual artists, photographers, musicians, and other performing artists. Foregrounding the unique contributions of each artist provides a glimpse into the playful synchronicity that O’Connor achieves in BLEED. Read on to learn more about each of the dancers in advance of seeing the performance at the Walker (Thursday-Saturday, March 19-21, 2015 at 8pm in the McGuire Theater).
Tess Dworman is a Brooklyn-based choreographer who has produced work and performed in both traditional theaters and non-traditional venues, including galleries and apartments in Chicago and New York. Movement Research presented her recent choreographic collaboration with Laura Atwell, Stay at Home Prism, in September 2014.
As with many of Dworman’s dances, props are a key element in this piece. Dworman and Atwell begin by running around the stage with long wooden planks extending out of their sleeves as arms. They kick a transparent, inflatable sofa back and forth to each other. The two dancers sit together on the sofa and have a conversation using only their hands. Dworman’s interpretation of everyday gestures in her own work resonates with Tere O’Connor’s continued exploration of gesture through movement.
devynn emory’s company, devynnemory/beastproductions, has presented performance work at venues such as Danspace Project, Movement Research, and Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. emory has received grants and residencies and spoken on panels about their dance-making process and how it is influenced by cultural and gender identity. In emory’s own words: “i want performance to insist on another version of reality. i want to contribute to a queering of a performance aesthetic that invites a closer relationship to the ways we actually see and experience the world. i want to not only move from a queer lineage of resistance and outrage–i also want to, as a mixed-race native american person, welcome this queer movement on staged ground with peace and persistence.”
The artist recently presented an evening-length work, This room this braid, at the Actors Fund in Brooklyn, a project that developed from a year-long residency at Issue Project Room and received funding from a successful Kickstarter campaign. emory, who overcame severe dyslexia, creates works that playfully navigate issues of order, perfection, and formalism. This willingness to take creative risks makes emory a natural fit for Tere O’Connor’s ensemble.
Natalie Green’s work has been presented by Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Workshop, and Movement Research at the Judson Church, among others. Her first evening-length work, I’m building a shrine., was created as the result of personal research and a collaborative rehearsal process with the dancers, performed at the Chocolate Factory Theater in 2013.
Describing how the dance came out of her recent life experience, Green said, “I started to feel like all I wanted to do was bury objects in the earth to try to make peace, to let go. More recently I’ve realized I want to build a shrine, abstractly and kinetically. I want to honor, adorn, love, and then burn a version of my life. This dance is a way to both build and shed, harness and destroy.” In the work, she invited audience members to select from a host of occult items, among them bone fragments and voodoo dolls, for use in her shrine. This attention to ritual finds resonance with O’Connor’s vocabulary, one comprised of “gestures both ordinary and obsessive” (The New York Times).
Ryan Kelly has been working collaboratively with Brennan Gerard for the past decade within their interdisciplinary visual and performing arts organization, Moving Theater. Their most recent project, P.O.L.E. (People, Objects, Language, Exchange), created in residency at the New Museum, transformed the museum’s fifth floor into a laboratory for movement research about cultures and pole dancing.
Hyperallergic called Gerard and Kelly’s project “politicized pole dancing,” discussing the artists’ goal of providing a space for both experienced and inexperienced dancers to play and explore. They worked with two dance crews that had frequented their open, pay-by-donation sessions at the New Museum to incorporate the political language of the Black Lives Matter movement. As Vic Vaiana explained, “many members of the participating dance crews have had run-ins with the police while performing on the subway, influencing the narratives told during their performances”.
New York-based performer and choreographer Michael Ingle focuses on creating site-specific works in and around the community with his company, Michael and the Go-Getters. Ingle says he is drawn to “challenges, contradictions, wide-open spaces, and also trees.”
In addition to performing in Tere O’Connor’s BLEED, Ingle performed in O’Connor’s Cover Boy (2011) and Undersweet (2014), a duet performed by Ingle and Silas Reiner, most recently at American Realness. Ingle also collaborates with Megan Sprenger and performs with other nationally-renowned companies.
Oisín Monaghan’s recent collaborations with visual and performing artists have included performing in Xavier Le Roy’s Retrospective exhibition at MoMA PS1. He has been featured in the photography of Job Piston as well as in fashion photographer Kenneth Willardt’s 2014 The Beauty Book. Monaghan performed in the cast of the film As Rosas Brancas, which premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. He has presented work with visual artists at such venues as the Chelsea Hotel and Deitch Projects.
Cynthia Oliver is a Professor of Dance at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Along with her teaching, she runs her own dance theatre company called Cynthia Oliver Co., which creates performances that incorporate spoken word, dance, and sound, infused with Caribbean, African, and American influences. Oliver’s book, Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean, looks at the tradition of beauty pageants as a lens through which to understand the culture of the islands where she grew up.
Oliver finds inspiration in “the spaces between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.” The New York Times reviewed her Ruptured Calypso performance, calling it a “riotously beautiful art of winding, powerful, erotically charged rhythmic dance.”
Heather Olson has won Bessie Awards for her performance of Tere O’Connor’s work in addition to her work in Yanira Castro’s video and performance installation at the Gershwin Hotel, Dark Horse/Black Forest. Olson’s own choreography has been commissioned by venues such as Dance Theater Workshop and The Chocolate Factory Theater, where she performed her much-lauded Shy Showoff. As the New York Times said of Olson, “You could say she’s a deer caught in the stage lights, if the idiom connoted animal alertness rather than dumb paralysis. This deer has some De Niro in her: You lookin’ at me?”
One of Olson’s most personal and experimental works was her collaboration with Yanira Castro on a video installation project resulting from five years of work creating movement material. The movement in this solo was used as the basis for Castro’s The People to Come, during which the other performers created solo works based on Olson’s dance and contributions from the audience. The four-hour performance was comprised of new solo works that were created on stage using web-based responses from the audience and the general public to three requests (“give us a pattern; give us a portrait; give us a task”).” The website exists now as an archive of these audience contributions and the performances created from them.
Mary Read’s diverse educational background – spanning dance, masked theater, and psychoanalysis – emanates from her performances. She connects deeply with the intention of a work, as demonstrated through the New York Times‘ assessment of her performance in O’Connor’s Secret Mary, “Her hands betrayed a slight tremor, her big eyes on the verge of welling with tears. As she fluttered a hand, or stretched one arm almost out of its socket, this effort to dominate with her own body evoked a great internal struggle.”
In addition to working with O’Connor, Read has performed with Vanessa Anspaugh, Hilary Clark, Lily Gold, Molly Poerstel, Katy Pyle, Jen Rosenblit, Jacob Slominski, Larissa Velez, and Enrico Wey.
Silas Riener’s accomplishments include a 2012 Bessie Award for his performance in Merce Cunningham’s Split Sides, a collaboration with Harrison Atelier design firm on an installation and performance featuring Riener’s choreography at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and an ongoing creative partnership with former Merce Cunningham Dance Company dancer Rashaun Mitchell to make dances, site-specific installations, and immersive viewing experiences of performance.
The pair was featured in Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch in 2013,” and a short video introducing their work was presented by Imagista. The New York Times wrote of Riener’s performance of a duet choreographed by Tere O’Connor: “Mr. Riener has spent several years now determinedly avoiding the technical bravura he displayed with Merce Cunningham’s troupe; still, when he straightened a leg or inclined his torso here, it registered with classic impact.”
David Thomson has collaborated with artists in music, dance, and theater for over 30 years. He has received numerous artist residencies and fellowships, and has served on faculties and boards of some of the most recognized art and performance institutions in the country. Thomson’s list of artists he’s performed for and with is extensive and impressive, including Bebe Miller, Trisha Brown, Ralph Lemon, Sekou Sundiata, Meg Stuart, dean Moss/Layla Ali, Deborah Hay, Marina Abramović, and many more. Most recently, he served as Artist-in-Residence at The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn, developing a trilogy of site-specific performance works on freedom and surrender through voyeurism, to be performed this year.
A cursory survey of this all-star ensemble reveals the fantastic scope of O’Connor’s ambitions. Culled from across the contemporary dance world, these dancers share an orientation towards formal invention and interpersonal exploration. O’Connor’s resolute refusal to adhere to stylistic boundaries and conventions promises to push each of these artists in fascinating new directions, to the benefit of everyone in the room.
BLEED will be performed at the Walker’s McGuire Theater Thursday–Saturday, March 19-21, 2015 at 8 pm. Tere O’Connor will also teach a Master Class at 11 am on Saturday, March 21 in the McGuire Theater.