Friday, December 9, 2011

Tere O'Connor's gentle men

Some musings on Cover Boy by Tere O'Connor Dance (Danspace Project, December 8, 2011)

Years ago, I listened as an urban birding guide jokingly described geese madly flapping, flapping, flapping as they struggled to lift their heavy bodies to the sky. The broad, fabricated "wing" arching from one side of O'Connor's dance space to the other kept the guide's words close to mind, and I wasn't at all surprised when, late in the hour, a similar "heavy goose" image briefly emerged from the dancing itself.

The white, jointed and slotted "wing"--created by Roger Hubeli and Julie Larsen of Aptum Architecture--made some slightly trembly, shallow adjustments at the start. But, basically, it just hovered over all like a protective force. I don't know why I expected its articulated segments to flap, or at least ripple. No, that's not right. I do know. I was remembering the graceful, almost-alive sculpture that Reuben Margolin made for Chunky Move's Connected, but I quickly put that out of my mind.

The evening opened with a musical statement thrust into unlit space--sounds chugging forward, though fuzzy in nature. The four men, soon appearing at the lip of the space, would occasionally speak during the hour but often in whispered asides meant for one another, not for those of us watching. Murmurs, mutters accompanying private gazes at one another. At other times, these baby birds might throw their sweet heads back and blow pure music from their throats. Not that that ever made sense. Making sense didn't seem to be the point of the moment.

Under shelter of the wing, the four first skittered to scatter to four directions, then turned into the center. Small, gentle hand gestures appeared to mark the space for ritual.

They would look at one another, turn away, tumble backwards hard and giggle. Again and then again, the tumble landing harder each time. After the last tumble, there was no giggle.

Over the course of the hour, we'd see not only some tender cuddling between men but also a lot of all-out smooching, nuzzling and rutting (fully-clothed). I still can't decide: Was this intended to look
self-conscious? Un-self-conscious? We're meant to see it, although, in a way, it is presented as if we're not seeing it.

Other moments are, without question, for show, for "See me! I am here!" or "See us! We are here, and aren't we glamorous?" with the men striking cool poses like rock bands on album covers or, grinning at us as they sashay towards us down an imaginary fashion runway.

Some things are for private and some for show, and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which and in which condition we find ourselves. Some things seem mechanical, and some seem floridly real, as if a veil has been ripped back and some funky part of personal history exposed.

What does it mean to be an artist, queer, a marginalized Other? O'Connor shelters--and complicates--the light and the dark of it.

Cover Boy is shot through with lucid, coherent performances--individually and together--by Michael Ingle, Niall Jones, Paul Monaghan and Matthew Rogers. Their willingness and sophisticated skills are a good match for O'Connor's unfettered imagination.

With music by James Baker, lighting by Michael O'Connor and costumes by Façade/Fasad.

Tere O'Connor's Cover Boy continues tonight through Sunday at 8pm and then returns on Tuesday, December 13 and Thursday, December 15, both at 8pm.

For tickets, click here or call 866-811-4111.

Danspace Project
Second Avenue at 10th Street, Manhattan

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