Tere O’Connor’s acclaimed ‘Bleed’ dances into Philly

You don’t need to speak the language of modern dance to appreciate the work of Tere O’Connor in “Bleed.”

For the lay audience member, insider descriptions of famed New York choreographer Tere O’Connor’s methods can feel somewhat distancing. Check out his Process Blog for “Bleed” – opening this weekend at FringeArts – and you’ll soon encounter references to “temporal constellations” and the “choreographic terrain.”

But there is no need to feel intimidated. His dances are intended to bring joy to all, especially those not steeped in the language of modern dance. In fact, he’s not interested in most of the usual assumptions about the art form; our inner lives are far too complex for those old tropes.

“I’m looking for a kind of replication of consciousness, which includes the full expression of what goes on in a mind,” says O’Connor, from the University of Illinois, where he teaches. “There are shards of stories, and aesthetic moments, and emotional tones — all the kinds of things that are inside one person. So I’m not interested in finding the most important one and creating a theme. I want to find out how they swim together.”

When “Bleed” opened last December at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it received rave reviews, most notably from the New York Times. The hourlong piece is actually based on three of O’Connor’s previous works. It’s an exploration of how movement lives in our minds and our bodies; a muscle memory of sorts. How does one idea or movement bleed into the next?

“Whenever I’m working [on a dance], I’m always fascinated by how information gets ghosted from one dance to another; and since I’m not looking for a narrative in my dances, I really notice the tone that’s created from one step to the next, or even one dance to the next,” he explains.

O’Connor’s dances are complex, but that doesn’t mean they’re not accessible. In his opinion, inner complexity is the norm of every contemporary person’s experience. “I think we savor the pragmatic over the ambiguous too often,” he says, “and I don’t have to point to anything other than the state of the world right now to prove that this might be the wrong direction. … So the kind of polar opposite dogma that people are engaged in might be somewhat alleviated by looking at things with complexity.”

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