Artist Notes: Tere O’Connor

Tere O’Connor. Photo: Natalie Fiol

Throughout my choreographic career I have been motivated by the question: “What can dance do?” Outside of mime, its inability to treat subject matter or story with any exactitude raised questions for me. Many viewers seem to crave subject matter to steady themselves in the free flowing waters of a choreographic sensibility. But working in dance and immersing myself first hand in its material for decades, I’ve discovered that traits such as inference, essence, quality, reference, complexity, layering and rhythm create another kind of meaning in dance more than imagery or stated themes.

Adopting this collection of traits as my poetic scaffolding, I long ago ceded any desire for the expression of specific ideas to the ambiguous contours of the choreographic mind. My dances are constellations of colliding ideas whose interaction propels the choreography. They imitate consciousness by placing language in a less prominent role, and setting the tangible and the absurd in close proximity, allowing the imagination to become the ocean upon which our certitudes float.

In the two works we will present, different degrees of abstraction are at play. I wish there was a better word than abstraction. I want a word that conveys the sense of contemplative space dance offers us where multiple, indeterminate elements mingle and interact, creating a constellation of ideas unbothered by cohesiveness. Making dances and coming to experience them offers us a moment to gather and connect with a different focus from the pragmatic, cogent one that rules most of our waking hours.

—Tere O’ Connor
Artistic Director, Tere O’Connor Dance

Michael Ingle rests on Silas Reiner’s shoulder. Photo: Paula Court


In the contrast between the images of a dance and the invisible structures that reveal them over the duration of a work, we find one of the most functional metaphors dance offers. It is an articulation of a core paradox of human experience: the construction of a socially acceptable facade versus the full flowing and subterranean complexity of an internal life. In this work, I seek to amplify the particular fusion of façade and sexual desire in choreographic abstraction. We all hold an erotic layer at bay when behaving socially, yet it exerts a power on our actions. I have been driven by this consideration while working on this dance.

Undersweet was commissioned by LMCC and presented in progress as part of the River to River Festival 2014. It was developed during an LMCC artist residency in 2014 as part of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Dance Development program, made possible in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (

The movement material for both of these works is created in close collaboration with the dancers. Their creative offerings are invaluable as are their wit, rigor, talent and generosity. I am so grateful to them.

Eleanor Hulliahn. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Transcendental Daughter

This work is a venture into the poetic workings of dance. Exhausted by the proclamations and personal dogma of politicians, pundits and artists in this present political and cultural moment, I return to dance to deliver myself to a different plane of living and thinking. The title of this work does not describe a character in the dance but is rather a name for dance itself. Although I almost certainly over-romanticize it, I hold the mother/daughter relationship in high regard. We could use this healing presence. A daughter can laugh with us, trick us, enchant us, love us, hide from us, show us a full range of feelings and elevate us, via her lightness, from the dogma below.

Transcendental Daughter has been commissioned by The Joyce Theater’s Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New Work. The work is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funds were provided by the University of Illinois Research fund and the Harkness Foundation.

tereoconnor_salesblastvideoTere O’Connor Dance
Undersweet + Transcendental Daughter
November 3, 4 & 5, 2016 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets



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