Responses: Tere O'Connor's Baby

by Abigail Levine I usually go about creating performance material with the aim of making an audience think, but I have come to realize that, as an audience member, I am most affected by dance that makes me feel something first. In these best instances, I have a feeling that I can't quite identify or won't quite leave me, and I then turn to thought to untangle it or figure out how the choreographer and dancers conspired to leave me in this state. Tere O'Connor's Baby left me with a doozie of a feeling--something between schizophrenia, giddiness, and a strange and subtle high. I saw this piece nearly a year ago, and I remember clearly that feeling overtaking me as the stage went to black and the dancers took their curtain call. It left my friends and I giggling nervously as we walked down the street. We weren't yet able to talk about why we were laughing. We simply began calling out images we couldn't stop seeing in our minds. As I reflected on this mess of feeling and imagery, I came to its most confounding and appealing source. O'Connor seemed to have no regard for narrative in any sense that I had been trained to absorb it. He set off associations, built and undermined stories and relationships, and bypassed social and intellectual protections on the way to emotional and sensorial reactors. I had spent an hour in a world that was not fixed to any of the logic that so irritatingly and comfortingly anchors most of our lives and interactions. The final and most startling result of this experience was that I was nearly convinced that the world I was about to walk back into was not the one that I had left--ordered, navigable, filled with conventions and rules--but the one that I had lived through in the theater--disorienting, upsetting, laughable, teetering on the edge of implosion. I remember this performance a year later because, although I walked back outside and found everything as I had left it, I eventually realized that, if I stepped back a bit, the world that feels so manageable is actually quite akin to the one that O'Connor conjured. It is simply a well-practiced narrowing of awareness that keeps me from being as disoriented by the world's chaos as I was in O'Connor's theater.
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Abigail Levine, Tere O'Connor


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