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By Wendy Perron
Tere O’Connor Dance in Baby
Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Tere O’Connor Dance
Tere O’Connor Dance
Dance Theater Workshop, NYC
March 22–April 1, 2006
Reviewed by Wendy Perron
Tere O’Connor has found a sure rhythm and it works. Both last season’s Frozen Mommy and this 20th-anniversary concert, Baby, have a stop–start rhythm, infused with the intensity of each isolated or overlapping vignette. The dancers react to each other with sighs or gasps, or with stone-faced stillness; eccentric moves like sticky steps on relevé connect one episode with another. The piece has both an immediate impact and a lingering one, and you don’t know why.
The five performers each contribute a different aspect of madness and delight. Matthew Rogers is a skinny, wild cowboy; Hilary Clark is an intensely determined earth mother; Christopher Williams throws himself into movement with scary abandon; Heather Olson is attractively loony; and Erin Gerken is sweetly sensual. At any given moment one is sure to act nonchalant while another is having a nervous breakdown. Following who is doing which is like watching the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
Baby has even less of a narrative or dynamic arc than Frozen Mommy. (Neither the opening tale about a horse named Whatever, nor the four dancers rampaging in granny glasses, comes back in any form.) The only reference to a baby that I could see (other than the giant red bow upstage—set design by Brian MacDevitt and O’Connor) is a moment when Williams, Clark, and Gerken are facing upstage with legs spread and feet rooted to the ground. Suddenly they look like toddlers afraid to take the next step. Maybe they have a load in their pants or maybe they are afraid they will fall. They cry out, and cry out louder, making desperate, mournful sounds. It’s upsetting in a funny way (or funny in an upsetting way). Meanwhile, Rogers and Olson are languidly pulling down the white silk curtains upstage. This is either expert counterpoint or the adults changing the baby’s diapers.
Like Frozen Mommy, Baby is an exhilarating example of postmodernism. Leaving behind the theme-and-variations format, the piece launches into an arena where actions are both specific and ambiguous. There are few clues that tie the whole package together (red bow notwithstanding). The upshot is that if you’re looking for coherence, you’re on your own. See www.tereoconnordance.org or www.dtw.org.