Tere O’Connor’s Bleed seems as cerebral as he comes across in interviews and program notes – but don’t mistake intellectualism for unapproachable jargon or terribly boring dance. Mr O’Connor’s piece is an enigmatic and fascinating piece that manages to approach ritual, reverie and humor with equal ease.

Bleed © Ian Douglas
Bleed
© Ian Douglas

Heather Olson’s opening solo is mesmerizing. Though she does little more than sway her hips from side to side and gesture almost absent-mindedly with her fingers, her focus alternates between introspective and looking as if a desperate director has just pushed her out on stage to soothe an impatient crowd. Much of Bleed mimics this pull of opposites: Moments of reverie are constantly interrupted, often with explosive movement and vocalizations. Often, this juxtaposition leads to moments of (for me, unexpected) humor. One of my favorite moments in the piece occurred when Devynn Emory and Mary Read, already opposites on the height spectrum, suddenly traversed the space in an aggressive, percussive way – their feet mincing quickly and urgently. Both of them wore facial expressions full of indecision and doubt; they looked unsure why they had to travel this way, at this moment, or why they were even doing it in the first place. The moment stopped almost as abruptly as it had begun, and I momentarily wondered if I’d conjured up the entire bit myself.

I think this solemnity in the face of circumstances beyond our control is what lends Bleed its moments of humor. When Ms Olson is repeatedly picked up and placed in a particular attitude, only to collapse to the ground a moment later, the sequence is startling; when it happens over and over again, without explanation, it becomes chuckle-worthy.

Bleed © Ian Douglas
Bleed
© Ian Douglas

Mr O’Connor’s cast is variable but successful. His performers range widely in age and experience with his work, but each dancer seemed to understand his or her role with depth and clarity. Oisín Monaghan and Ms Olson felt particularly right in this piece.

I have found that it is a difficult task for choreographers to find the balance of how much they should reveal to an audience about a particular work: if they narrate too much, the work often becomes overly simplistic and pandering; if they reveal too little, it becomes an abstract mess of movement that feels unworthy of painstaking deciphering. Somehow, Mr O’Connor has managed to make Bleed fall into the latter category, but without negative results. Though I came away with a sense of ritual, bordering on magic, I never got a firm hold on what, exactly, Bleed is about. Rather than frustrating me, this intrigued me. I liked the ambiguity. I take this is a mark of a master. 

****1