Merce Cunningham once said that dance need be no more significant – and no less full of incident – than stepping into a drugstore to buy a cup of coffee when it is raining outside. Substitute everything in the store for that coffee and the seasons coming and going at warp speed for the rain, and you have Tere O’Connor in his recent manic mode. The ingenuity, not to mention quantity, of invention in his long-overdue BAM debut makes every other choreographer seem like a laggard, parcelling out their stingy few steps like Scrooge.
For the one-hour Bleed, O’Connor’s raw material consists not just of torso and limbs, and fingers and toes, but also the tongue lolling in the mouth, and eyeballs out of whack with the head – presented in stirringly strange combinations that paradoxically seem familiar too. In fact, if Bleed has a subject, it is the chain of association: how one move sets off another, how the whiff of an idea spreads over a group.
With this outing, the cast does amount to a group. O’Connor’s typical ensemble is the size of a dysfunctional family. Bleed, however, counts 11 eclectic performers, all of whom remain onstage for the duration: too many people for the usual want and aversion to rise between them. Instead, the dancers absorbed the weather of movement around them. They were in communication with the group even when they veered away or stood on the margins. And everyone did both. A dancer led one moment and followed the next; testified, then witnessed. Someone was always instigating a chain reaction, then someone else.
As often as a stampede arose from a solo, a dancer lay on the floor as if in his grave and everyone peered down. The group regularly fragmented into duets and trios that renewed ballet’s courtliness with a homely version of the gracious clasp of hand, the pliant bobbing, dipping and swaying.
What did not happen was the crescendo, the dramatic summation. Rather, Bleed began and ended again and again – playfully like a game you wish were more real or disturbingly like a memory you wish were less. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the electrifying dance picked up again once we filed out, carrying on until the imagination ran dry.