Tere O’conner’s Rammed Earth

By Manuela Gabaldon


The space shifts, the audience collaborates, there is no permanent stage, no scenery, and at times the room’s complete silence is only disturbed by the sound of dancers’ uninterrupted footsteps; there is nothing conventional about choreographer Tere O’conner’s Rammed Earth, a unique portrayal of the relationship between architecture and the language of dance. A combination of O’conner’s choreography and skillfully tactical lighting, by artistic partners Michael O’conner and Brian MacDevitt, Rammed Earth communicates best through a silent language that is as clear as words. The Houston Chronical writes: “Like the best writers, O’conner has an astonishing eye for gestural details. His newest dances didn’t need words, they crackled with body poetry that made language superfluous.” Although the absence of words is usually characteristic of most dance performances, Rammed Earth does not seem to lack them at all; although words are not said they are definitely heard in this inimitable performance.

O’conner was first drawn to the idea of Rammed Earth through his critique and discontent with modern human’s preferential use of glass and steel in today’s buildings, a concept O’conner associates with dance. Rammed Earth is an ancient building technique where a mixture of earth, usually of sand, gravel, and clay, is molded into the shape of walls. The technique requires the complete participation of everything natural and everything earth; in ancient times, animal blood was used to stabilize the mixture while the sun dried it. Although today we use concrete as the stabilizer, the sun is still one of the most active participants of the process, drying and hardening the structure into its ultimate and permanent shape. His new dance, performed in a stripped warehouse, where audiences move their chairs in between sections to form new spaces, recalls the simpler more basic times of the rammed earth technique. Just as in rammed earth’s mixture of natural resources and the aid of the sun, the lack of a strict and designated stage permits an interaction between spectator and performer that is achieved through the four talented dancers’ movement around and in between the audience. “Rammed earth makes sense for dance,” O’conner says, “it works in conjunction with the idea that dance is like an unraveled building.”

Tere O’conner’s dance company, Tere O’conner Dance, is composed of talented dancers, Hilary Clark, Erin Gerken, Heather Olson, Matthew Rogers, and Christopher Williams, seekers of the new and alternative. These participants of O’conner’s unique vision are as essential as the fluent speakers of his physical language. Tigertail Productions presents the Florida premiere of Tere O’connner’s Rammed Earth at Dorsch Gallery (151 NW 24th Street, Wynwood Art District, Miami) on Friday November 14th 2008 at 8:30pm and on Saturday November 15th at 2:00pm and 8:30 pm. Tickets are $30 for general admission and there is limited seating. For more information visit their website at www.tigertail.org.

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