I went to the third and fourth parts (out of four) of the NY Quadrille series at the Joyce. Each part included two pieces, one of them commissioned for this series, done on a square stage with seating on all four sides. The third part was by Tere O’Connor Dance.
First off, the seating wasn’t really on four sides. There was some seating along the sides in the balcony that extended to the sides of the stage, but most people were seated either in normal seating on one side or on what’s normally the stage on the opposite side. It still felt like an in-the-round performance.
At Tere O’Connor Dance’s performance, the first piece was Undersweet. This was danced by Michael Ingle and Silas Riener and according to O’Connor is one of his pieces that gets closest to content. It’s pretty clearly about sexual desire and is very erotic; O’Connor’s program notes say that he was interested in exploring the “erotic layer (we hold) at bay when behaving socially.” The piece started off very formal, matching well to the music from Lully’s Atys and feeling period. (The closeness between the two dancers wasn’t even at the level of a waltz.) Then it started diving in more, and while that initial formal music returned several times, the dancing became increasingly less formal each time it did.
There was lots of good partnering in this piece, both standing and on the floor. Ingle and Riener were really partnering each other (not one partnering the other). It felt even and interesting, with some parts reminiscent of partner acro. There was a little jump sequence I enjoyed and would like learning, though I didn’t feel like either Ingle or Riener used their feet in this section as well as they could, especially because Riener has incredibly good feet. (But then, as much as I like modern, I grew up with ballet, and that definitely affects how I think about this.)
There were several places where Undersweet felt like it was ending and then didn’t. My favorite ending spot was probably the first one, which was after the first return of the initial music, where the dancers ended up holding each other and rocking their weight slightly from left to right. It wasn’t jarring to keep going — not all endings have to be ends — but I found it the most satisfying of the endings.
The second piece was Transcendental Daughter and was danced by Eleanor Hullihan, Natalie Green, and Silas Riener. Whereas Undersweet felt like two dancers together as a couple, this piece really felt like the three dancers were one. There was one character, despite there being three dancers. There wasn’t much partnering, but there was lots of togetherness. Sometimes they were three and sometimes they were two+one, but the one didn’t feel separated, just slightly apart. O’Connor, in the discussion afterwards, described this piece as having a “loss of context,” and I agree with that. He also said that he tried to manipulate where the audience zoned out a bit into reverie and when their attention was brought back, and I found him successful in that.
O’Connor talked about choreographing his pieces in silence; the music is added later. The music for this piece was composed by James Baker particularly for it, after the work was choreographed, but I found the music extraneous and weak in comparison to the dance. It was a very interesting contrast from seeing Balanchine works for the two weeks prior; Balanchine was also not particularly interested in narrative, but his work tends to be a physical expression of the music. O’Connor said he doesn’t think dance should be secondary to the music or that the music needs people “jumping around in front of it.” I disagree with those assessments of music-motivated dance pieces, but I do agree that his work is nearly a different art form.
A huge portion of the audience had seen many of O’Connor’s works. I don’t expect to join the ranks of loyal fans. I enjoyed the performances, but this isn’t a choreographer/company I’ll be seeking out.