Tere O'Connor

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2013

Champaign, IL and New York, NY

Through 30 years of making dances, Tere O'Connor continues to explore and refine movement, gesture, and composition in his choreography. His poem and Secret Mary, which premiered at New York Live Arts in 2012, offered provocative deconstructions and reconstructions of familiar ballet, modern, and historic dance forms. He founded Tere O’Connor Dance in 1982 and has created over 34 works for his company. He has also created numerous commissioned works for companies including Lyon Opera Ballet, White Oak Dance Project, de Rotterdamse Dansgroep, Dance Alloy, and Zenon. He is the recipient of many awards including a Creative Capital Award (2009) and a USA Fellowship (2009). As a mentor and educator, he has taught at dance festivals and universities around the world, and is currently a tenured professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An avid writer and researcher, he continues to seek ways to document systems, values, and thinking around the creation of dance. Toward this end, he created a blog with performance scholar Jenn Joy to show his creative investigations and process for Bleed, which premiered in 2014.

  • Tere O'Connor- poem (2012): http://vimeo.com/64327892
    poem (2012)
  • Photo Credit: Paula Court
    poem (2012)
  • Tere O'Connor- Cover Boy (2011) : http://vimeo.com/44390845
    Cover Boy (2011)

What are your key goals for the award period? What challenges, desires, drives or needs are inspiring these goals?

My goals for this period are to continue my choreographic practice, foregrounding movement-based explorations, in an attempt to push our understanding of dance further towards the non-narrative, poetic, and philosophical end of the spectrum. The dances I create are inextricably integrated into a constellation of activities that constitute my presence in the field of dance. Teaching, writing, mentoring, advocacy, and the witnessing of dances are all components that add to my work and will continue to feed each other throughout this period. My position as a professor at the University of Illinois has offered me a platform to continue my research with a holistic approach and to offer my choreographic products as artifacts of that trajectory. I want to proceed with a detachment from “authorship,” a desire I have gleaned from my decades long immersion into choreographic practice and its humbling authority. Since dance does not offer denotation, one must create porous structures that allow the imposition of ideas from without to shape each dance anew with each set of eyes that find it. I want to keep learning how to excavate as much as possible from the deep reservoirs of wisdom held in subterranean layers of the choreographic realm.