We had the good fortune of connecting with Ondine Geary and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ondine, why did you pursue a creative career?
First, a caveat, framed as a SAT-style analogy – my creative life : a career = a sandwich made from all the leftovers in the fridge : dinner.
It’s often surprisingly delicious! But I’m not exactly meal-planning or even necessarily eating a balanced diet. And while I’m not sure what I’ll eat next, I’m pretty sure I won’t go to bed hungry any time soon.
Ok, now to the question.
Simply put, my dad.
I was 22, out of college (BA in Sociology), adrift, and at a crossroads. I wanted to do something meaningful, something useful in the world, and I thought that should probably be social work. But I’d fallen in love with dance. I didn’t know if I could make a career of it; I just knew I loved it.
My dad was living in a cheap apartment in West Seattle. It had all the hallmarks of the many other apartments of my childhood: mattresses on the floor in the two small bedrooms; strange and surprising found-objects-turned-art tacked to the walls or suspended from the ceiling; bookcases assembled from planks of wood and bricks, filled mostly with philosophy and contemporary poetry; a wooden desk; a rolling wooden armchair with a rounded back; an aging word processor surrounded by messy stacks of loose typing paper; the smell of coffee and grease and glue.
My dad was a struggling writer–but the kind that was also an HVAC repairman.
I was in Seattle visiting him for a few days. I was trying to figure out my life. I was restless, endlessly uncertain, and questioning him continually about which direction I should steer myself. After many days of avoiding a direct answer, he finally said with a tinge of exasperation, “Babe, if you know the thing that makes you forget about everything else, do that thing.”
So, I took his advice. I’ve been assembling this sandwich/career in dance however I can, trying alway to stay in relationship to the parts that allow me to forget everything else, to lose myself, to transcend–even for a moment–the tiny and tight feeling our lives so often have. I’m definitely nourished.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I make dances that are scrappy, unruly and resourceful. They slip themselves into the crevices between genres and insist on using whatever was lost down there–chicken bones, loose wires, half-retrieved memories. Their curiosity is corporeal, their solution somatic. Their point of entry and exit is always the body.
My dances are both deeply personal and irrepressibly political; these days, I am as influenced by the news cycle as the moon’s cycle. They often begin as improvisations, which is my attempt to crack through to the subconscious and find places where I feel lost. There, I mine the dark night sky of my interior life and, when I come across something terrifying or intriguing, I broadcast radio signals back down to Earth. And the personal becomes the political. My loneliness as a mother becomes an investigation into the invisibility of care-taking labor. Challenges in collaboration become an inquiry into the ways in which women negotiate power in the era of Trump. Death becomes passage through the Tor network’s exit nodes, and grief becomes draining whey.
While I am driven by a sense of political responsibility and seek to excavate the body in the body politic, I don’t believe art is the same as activism. I am under no illusions that dance will save us. But maybe, when it’s doing its job, it will revive us–even sustain us–and insist that we remember why we were in the fight to begin with.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ok, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll keep this to Boulder, where I’m based.
We’d hit these favorite eats (in no particular order): Santo, Blackbelly, Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage, Rincon Argentino, Oak, Gemini, Lindsay’s Boulder Deli, and the Village Coffee Shop. We’d get ourselves to Dushanbe Tea House for chai, Southern Sun for beers, Beleza for all-things-caffeine, and the St. Julian or the Bitter Bar or the rooftops of Avanti, Corrida or Rosetta Hall for tasty cocktails. We’d take a nighttime bike ride through town with a stop at the Rayback Collective. And we’d spend an entire day carb loading at Lucky’s Bakehouse or Moxie Bread Company in North Boulder. Probably both actually.
When we’re not eating or drinking, we’d hike Mt. Sanitas, Green Bear, the Mesa Trail, the Hogback Loop or Lion’s Lair. Or maybe just stroll around Wonderland Lake. Or maybe just lay on our backs in the grass at Chautauqua Park, North Boulder Park, along the Boulder Creek or on CU Boulder’s Norlin quad. We’d take a dance class at Block 1750. We’d do a little window shopping at my favorite consignment stores, Common Threads and the Amazing Garage Sale, and also at Two Hands Paperie and Peace, Love & Chocolate. And we’d definitely swing by the the ATLAS B2 Center for Media, Arts & Performance and hope to bump into any of the amazing artists in that community, folx like Sean Winters, Brad Gallagher, LeeLee James, John Gunther, Michael Theodore, Brittney Banaei, Anna Pillot, Naharin Shech, Nima Bahrehmand, Laurids Sonne, Paulus van Horne, Sasha de Koninck, Jordan Wirfs-Brock, Darija Medic, Mikhaila Friske, Holiday McAllister, Soulé Déesse, Helanius Wilkins, just to name a few. They’re all super interesting people and could definitely tell us what we should do next.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This is such an important and overwhelming question. So many people come to mind! But how to possibly represent decades of indebtedness? Cover all the categories and kinds of influence? Is that even possible? What would it take to produce a comprehensive and accurate accounting of all the people who have contributed to who I am and where I am now? Ok, I’m going to work on this–a taxonomy of influence. I’ll put it on my website once it’s done. But for the purposes of completing this interview, I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to two key folx: my most important frientor (friend/mentor), Michelle Ellsworth, and my most important creative partner, Tim Lowrimore. Also deserving so much credit (an incomplete list): Laura Ann Samuelson, Erika Randall, Rennie Harris, Kate Speer, Brooke McNamara, Lauren Beale, Kevin Sweet, Max Bernstein, Ryan Seelig, Steven Frost, Helanius Wilkins, and Teri Reub. Also, the folx at the ATLAS B2 Center for Media, Arts & Performance and the Department of Theatre & Dance at CU Boulder.
Jamie Harmon, Nicholas Caputo, Kevin Sweet, Doug Gulick