American Dance Institute
May 17, 2014
by George Jackson
copyright 2014 by George Jackson
Different types of motion go into “Bleed”. O’Connor, a New York based choreographer, isn’t exhaustive – no one can be – but listing all the varieties he deploys would be pointless since he processes them to seem alike. Not look alike, for certainly ballet steps haven’t the appearance of Shaker port de bras. Yet in this work such moves from distinct sources have much the same impact on the viewer’s eye and sensibility. So do the other sorts of actions contained in “Bleed”, including bits of mime and vocalization. In fact, there’s not just a homogeneity in the moving but also a familiarity, as if all the thematic bits came from a second hand shop. If not real variety or originality, what is it in the dancing that O’Connor wants to show? Could the piece’s title be a clue?
I looked for one type of move bleeding into another type but that’s not what happens in “Bleed”. There are no marked transitions, no Wagnerian modulations. The dancers simply stop doing one thing and start doing another. Nothing is delved into substantively, intensely. There is no true development. Instead, everyone seems to be marking the moves much of the time and doing a little repetition. The cast is a moderately large one for contemporary work: 11 dancers. Most of them are on view most of the time, not only in semi-ensemble sections but because each performer has at least a bit of solo prominence. Even so, O’Connor doesn’t seem interested in displaying anyone’s individual dance qualities, although he does rely a little on the personal traits of some. Watching how a short, shy dancer survives an encounter with a tall extrovert or how a self-centered figure fares while being partnered is what kept my interest. In other respects the attributes – of busyness, of density, and of duration (about an hour’s length) - that “Bleed” has in common with other contemporary work soon become predictable and indelible. Particularly stubborn was this piece’s penchant for eradicating dance’s fine distinctions.
The sound score by James Baker, chief percussionist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, was musically most interesting in its sections for cellist Chris Gross. Walter Dundervill’s costumes took their cue from the choreography’s second hand shop ambience.