Clarity Is a Useful Fiction - Interview with Tere O'Connor Nov 22, 2014

by Erin

Melody Datz Hansen at The Stranger interviews choreographer Tere O'Connor:

What is it about Seattle that made this the place for you to present these four pieces?

Seattle is one of the main cities in America that has a dance scene—it’s a destination dance city. The reception here has been great, we had 40 thoughtful people at the workshop and 20 people with some really interesting questions at Monday’s book club.

Are you tired of people bringing up the Joan Acocella letter?

No. It was just one electrified part of something I’m continually engaged in and many dance writers have no expertise in dance. I want to challenge that because we try to articulate what our work is and [critics’] responses come from their own preexisting hierarchies and lack of understanding of the goals of the artists. We are so afraid of debate in this country—we need to talk about this. Plus, [my response] was not a big deal because I have great relationships with dance critics. At present, they are trying to understand where choreographers are coming from and are giving feedback and doing a good job.

Is there a particular kind of dancer, or dancers with particular kinds of qualities, who do especially well in your work?

The people in my work are all artists in their own right: It’s not a daddy/baby relationship. We’re all working on own things, these dancers are interested in being on earth and in creating a cultural product, and they have a vast array of talent. My work is difficult and virtuosic and juxtaposed with different elements at great speed, so they have to be open in their body. They mostly come to me with ballet and modern chops but have gone to another level of assimilation of those skills so they are tools, odors of the past, rather than focuses of the choreography.

What about audiences? Is there an ideal one?

[Laughs.] Everyone and anyone! I’ve had the experience of traveling to many different places, presenting work to different demographics and audiences and basically the only determining factor [in how an audience will respond] is not race or gender or class but all people’s desire to move toward the poetic or their fear of that. It can happen to anybody at any time, dance is sometimes seen as something ambiguous and mysterious that some people call enigmatic but I think that dance is a clear statement about what consciousness is really like. Clarity is something we establish to make society work and capitalism work, but we’re actually in full ambiguity all the time. Some people who are totally new to dance say my work affects them and they don’t know why.

Read the rest of the interview at The Stranger.