From on stage, back stage and the theater seats, the Performing Arts blog illuminates the intersecting worlds of dance, theater, and music.
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. […]
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.
It’s been six years since Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas last visited the Walker: in 2008, they performed the artist’s early work Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982) for one night only. This weekend, the Walker will welcome De Keersmaeker back for the fifth time in twenty years […]
It’s been six years since Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas last visited the Walker: in 2008, they performed the artist’s early work Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982) for one night only. This weekend, the Walker will welcome De Keersmaeker back for the fifth time in twenty years with her seminal work, Rosas danst Rosas (1983). This important piece, which has never before been performed in Minnesota, initiated De Keersmaeker into the dance world in the early 1980s and has continued to gain international attention in the decades since.
Rosas danst Rosas, Then and Now
While Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker continues to make new work, she also maintains a strong repertoire throughout her oeuvre to be restaged and re-performed by her changing company of dancers. By presenting these pieces again and again over decades, Rosas provides audiences with a path through which to connect similarities and progressions from one period of De Keersmaeker’s choreography to another. With Rosas danst Rosas in particular, De Keersmaeker seems to be continuing a dialogue about the work over time, offering space for reinterpretation while also maintaining the integrity of the original choreography, which still feels as relevant today as it did thirty-odd years ago.
In 1997, the piece was filmed by Thierry De Mey (who provided the original score for the piece) in an old technical school in Leuven, Belgium, casting a new light on the staging and sequencing of the four sections of Rosas danst Rosas and offering a cinematic interpretation of the work. In 2012, the piece was described and presented textually in a book co-authored by De Keersmaeker, titled A Choreographer’s Score: Fase, Rosas danst Rosas, Elena’s Aria, Bartók, in which the choreographer and performance theorist Bojana Cvejić created visual scores for four of De Keersmaeker’s most significant works, including verbal explanations, drawings, photos, and demonstrations by the choreographer. Both De Mey’s film and the 2012 book serve to further explore and even re-imagine De Keersmaeker’s original choreography and performance of Rosas danst Rosas.
In addition to these interpretative documentations of Rosas danst Rosas, the piece has received participatory attention in recent years through the Re:Rosas project. After pop star Beyoncé used De Keersmaeker’s choreography from Rosas danst Rosas in her 2011 music video Countdown, a discussion of De Keersmaeker’s work and the notion of it being plagiarized entered the mainstream media. As a sort of happy accident with the Beyoncé episode, Rosas danst Rosas reached new audiences, some of whom would not have otherwise been aware of the work.
In recent years, De Keersmaeker developed the Re:Rosas project in which she sets her choreography free to be interpreted by anyone, teaching the movements and choreographic structure of the piece to online audiences. She encourages anyone and everyone to film themselves dancing Rosas danst Rosas in their own way and to upload their videos to the Re:Rosas site. So far, nearly 300 videos have been uploaded, showing people of all ages and in various parts of the world performing their versions of De Keersmaeker’s choreography.
As Rosas danst Rosas has been performed over and over, not only by the Rosas company and its evolving group of dancers, but by people around the world through the Re:Rosas project, the movements take on new meaning when performed in different contexts and settings. De Keersmaeker’s original choreography involves four female dancers performing a four-part dance in which they first move while lying on the floor, then while seated in chairs, then while standing in a line, and lastly while moving through the entire space of the stage. The structure of the chair sequence is described in detail by De Keersmaeker on the Re:Rosas site and involves a quite mathematical repetition of movements where each dancer is assigned one of four positions which determines the order of set movements she must execute.
In Thierry De Mey’s film, the dancers’ drab costumes and the industrial setting suggest they are factory workers or prisoners of some sort, and their movements in the first two parts reflect a frustration and tiredness as well as a hint at femininity and even sexual repression when the dancers expose and quickly cover up one shoulder with their shirts. On the Rosas website, dramaturg Marianne Van Kerkhoven writes that the concept of femininity is a common theme in all of De Keersmaeker’s early works, and that these works refer to femininity and the transition stage between female adolescence and adulthood without directly referencing the feminism of the early 1980s. De Keersmaeker was only in her early 20s when she created Rosas danst Rosas and her other early works, so she likely placed her own position in life and its challenges and limitations into her work.
With the Re:Rosas project, the content of the dance changes as different bodies perform the work in different settings and spaces all over the world, even while the movements remain similar to De Keersmaeker’s original choreography. De Keersmaeker seems curious to see other interpretations of her work, perhaps inspired by Beyoncé’s copy just as Beyoncé was inspired by De Keersmaeker’s choreography. In a 1999 interview with Walker Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither, De Keersmaeker mentioned the change involved when different dancers perform a piece in a different time than the original staging, and she seems interested in the way different bodies respond to her movement in different ways and can even change the piece entirely. As generations of audiences continue to learn about De Keersmaeker and her history through the performances of her early works, De Keersmaeker also learns from the perspectives of new audiences and new casts of dancers performing historical pieces.
De Keersmaeker as an innovator and educator
What makes Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker unique as a contemporary choreographer is her commitment to education and her practice of making dance education accessible to younger generations of dancers. Through educating the public about dance, as well as by providing resources to the dance community, Rosas continues a conversation about De Keersmaeker’s work while contributing to an environment of sharing and learning. Rosas has partnered with other Belgian and European arts organizations on several education initiatives, including Bal Moderne (a workshop in which the public learns a series of short choreographies with little or no dance experience required, with the goal of experiencing simply the pleasure of dancing), Dancing Kids (a weekly dance class offering for children, taught by Rosas), Lasso (a network of education, cultural heritage, social welfare, and arts organizations to share best practices in arts education and form partnerships), and RondOmDans (a project in which Rosas introduces high school students in Brussels to contemporary dance and performance through lectures, classes, and rehearsal visits).
One of De Keersmaeker’s most successful and influential education projects has been the creation of the P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) school in Brussels, which she co-founded with the Belgian National Opera De Munt/La Monnaie in 1995 and continues to oversee as Director. P.A.R.T.S. is a contemporary dance training program and a laboratory for creative exploration that emphasizes a dialogue between dance and music, theater, and other art forms. Students develop their own independent artistic voices through a two-year training cycle followed by a two-year advanced research cycle which include a schedule of short workshops on topics from dance technique to caring for the dancing body taught by internationally known and respected choreographers and teachers. Upon visiting the school, one will notice the relaxed, yet intellectual atmosphere within the expansive studio spaces and student lounges. Countless languages are spoken in the hallways, as the students at P.A.R.T.S. come from dozens of countries throughout Europe and across the world. Lunch is provided to students in a cafeteria that serves meals to support a healthy, macrobiotic diet, and the curriculum seems to emphasize body awareness and health.
De Keersmaeker has designed P.A.R.T.S. not to teach her specific style or repertory, although these may be included in the workshop schedule, but rather to foster a productive environment and a space for experimentation for the next generation of movement-based artists. She seems always to be interested in the possibility of artists inspiring one another and continuing the conversation she started in her early 20s with the advent of Rosas. As she continues to educate the public with her repertoire of dance works and younger generations of dancers through P.A.R.T.S., De Keersmaeker succeeds in strengthening a legacy of teaching, thinking, and rethinking …a legacy that fosters an ongoing dialogue with the public and the world about her work.