Performing Arts: Dance
October 14, 2016
Inherent in the word “quadrille” is the sense of four, reinforced by one of its definitions being a square dance between four couples. At the Joyce Theater, however, the NY Quadrille, set in the middle of the house, actually has two functional views – front and back. Tere O’Connor’s work as installed in this format exploits this limitation to sensitize us to the vast perceptual differences within the two orientations.

The scene for Undersweet is set, paralyzing expectation through elemental tension via anachronism. Silas Riener and Michael Ingle strut lightly to Jean-Baptiste Lully’s French baroque flair. The arguably baroque stepping lasts so long that it more connotes runway modeling, mismatched all the more by disjointed costuming that feels individually incomplete – Riener in brown leggings and Ingle in a gray T-shirt and gym shorts.

The pairing is as students forced into working together. Ingle maintains a deadpan and vertical postural clarity while Riener’s face is all flirtation with the slightest pomposity of an upward cranial tilt. Even as they partner privately, their expression is one of public assimilation, giving no sense of personal preference, yet still achieving intense intimacy. Ingle hooks his leg over Riener’s shoulder from standing to reclining. On the floor, they maintain interlocking straddles, rolling over pelvises. Other moments, including a fleeting kiss, feel more distant, even when physically close.

The entire piece is a chain of setups, expanding our imaginations to construct different stories for the same imagery. O’Connor accomplishes this with musical pacing, starting or waiting to re-color a silent scene. Between Lully, concrete sounds of water and scratching contain ambiguity unto themselves as to how they might relate to, initiate, or be the result of the geometrically pure vocabulary, if at all.

Transcendental Daughter spotlights movement more than the people executing it. From the opening moment of Riener, Eleanor Hullihan, and Natalie Green lying as leafs of a clover, they maintain a sense of being the edge of their space, even as pathways tangle. Michael O’Connor’s lighting expands and contracts, setting spatial boundaries on a journey outward from a central point, kept from extending beyond the edge of the Quadrille by gestural inquiry.

The opening tableau activates from continuous back and forth motion. Movement teeters side to side, front to back, up to down in binaries to explore motivic possibilities. In space, each section is either high or low and pitted near to or far from the viewer, facing toward or away. Such binaries imbue otherwise imagistically simple (though undeniably rigorous) movement with varied textures while the articulation itself flows continuously at a steady pace in a phrasing binary of repetitive movement pairs that change their rhythmic pattern at the moment of perceptibility.

These binaries are anything but dichotomies. In the ever-shifting perspectives of the Quadrille’s two fronts, the endpoints set up a spectrum in which the average between the two is the direct front. If we imagine any spectral point as a possible direct front, however, the spatial binaries become similarly flexible, creating a perimeter around the quadrille that is not so much square as it is circular.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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