Ondine Geary knows that it takes a village to build a performance. She invites Boulder's collaborative community of dancers and choreographers to join her in crossing the boundaries of dance in her own work, and returns the favor on call. Mentored by creative genius Michelle Ellsworth at the University of Colorado Boulder, Geary creates trailblazing work that is both political and personal.
Her newest project, Radius of Transmission, uses a three-part immersive blend of direct audience engagement, dance performance and art installation. Curious? Tune in to Geary’s wavelength as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Ondine Geary: My creative muse? The perfect combination of sweet, salty and doughy. Is there anything more inspiring on the planet? Okay, but really, the truth is I don’t think I know...which I find both terrifying and exhilarating. Exhilarating because when a creative impulse/direction/idea strikes, it always surprises and delights me. Terrifying because I usually feel like I stumbled on it by accident. Or like it implanted itself in my brain of its own volition — usually at 3 a.m. It feels totally unwieldy and intractable. And I worry I might go looking for it one day and not be able to locate it. I think this gives me tremendous respect for creativity. It feels as uncontainable as the tide. I think of creativity not as something I have, but rather something I have had the opportunity to steward.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
This is a tricky question. There are so many! My first priority is obviously to ensure my guests have a great time. (I’m from Memphis, and Southern hospitality is deeply rooted.) So, with that as the priority, I’d definitely extend my first invitation to Prince. He’d do the music. Duh. (Come to think of it, maybe I’d just have three of Prince — because Prince. Okay, but assuming three Princes breaks the rules.)
Afterward, when the guests are gone and the house is trashed, Prince, Anthony, Pina and I would sit on the couch (or lie on the living-room floor) and talk about everything — childhood, creative process, the state of the world today, what we should’ve done differently, what we’re most proud of, what’s happening for artists right now, how to be honest in art, how to be vulnerable, how to stay inspired, why art matters (does art matter?), how to be useful to the world, addiction, depression and the perfect combination of sweet, salty and doughy...
But let’s be real. If I get to visit with dead people, I’m definitely going to choose my dad and brother. Also, my paternal grandmother. It’d be a terrible party. But no way I’m going to pass up that chance.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
I think the best thing about the local community is the University of Colorado Boulder. Especially the Theatre & Dance Department, which is like a second family to me. I’ve benefited enormously from the brilliant artists and ideas that have entered the local stream, thanks to CU. (Twelve of the fifteen artists working on my current project are affiliated with the university.) But the other best thing is how many members of our local dance scene are grown-ass ladies. I mean, seriously badass dancers in their thirties, forties and beyond, who are slaying on the dance floor and also raising children. I’m talking about dancers like Lauren Beale, Brooke McNamara, Tara Rynders, Chrissy Nelson, Gwen Ritchie, Michelle Ellsworth, Erika Randall, Sarah Mauney, Mecca Madyun, Peg Posnick, Gretchen Spiro, Kim Olson and others. I’m super-inspired by these women and so proud to be in their company.
The worst thing? People are always leaving — and mothers are really busy! Scheduling is complicated. (But mothers know how to get work done! So, it’s never really a problem.)
What’s your dream project?
A project with a budget that allows me to pay all the artists involved a living wage, especially the dance artists.
What's the one thing Denver (or Boulder) could do to help the arts?
Affordable housing for artists. Most artists can’t sustain a life here.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Oh, I love it. I’m staying. I still miss Memphis so much. Memphis will always be home. But I can’t leave Colorado’s bright-blue skies — or my mentors, or my friends, or my collaborators or my job. I have a really great life. I’m really happy here.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Just one?! Not fair, but okay. Michelle Ellsworth. (And also, you have to see Constance Harris dance.)
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I’m super-excited to be performing with Michelle Ellsworth in September, and with Laura Ann Samuelson in January. I’ll also be making some things in the coming year, but I don’t know what yet. My current project, Radius of Transmission, is a logistical and emotional beast, so right now, all I can imagine as a next project is its polar opposite. Like: There will be no props, no technology, no lighting or sound, no rehearsals, no humans, no marketing. I think it will just be a parking lot. That will be the entire dance. Not a dance in a parking lot. Just a parking lot. Get your tickets now.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
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So many talented people come to mind — and I’m sure I’m forgetting many others! Definitely Laura Ann Samuelson. And Kate Speer. And Tara Rynders, Vivian Kim, Lauren Beale, Brooke McNamara, Emily K. Harrison and Square Product Theatre, Kevin Sweet, Olivia Dwyer, Satchel Spencer, Jun Akiyama, Christopher Baker, rick h m, Constance Harris, Laura Kim, Chrissy Nelson, Attiyya Fortuné, Gwen Ritchie, Ryder Turner, Keith Haynes, Leah White, TJ McLemore, Ayla Sullivan, Allison Blakeney, Hattie Houser, Meg Madorin, Tim Lowrimore, Steven Frost — so many great artists!
Part One of Ondine Geary’s immersive multimedia project Radius of Transmission opens Monday, August 19, and runs through September 16 in a secret Boulder County location; visiting times must be reserved in advance online. Parts Two and Three, which are ticketed events, happen September 4 through September 7; instructions are available at radius.dance, where you can also reserve a time to view the installation. Admission for both is $55 at brownpapertickets.com.
Ondine Geary performs with Michelle Ellsworth in [UN] W.R.A.P. Dances That Don't Look Like Dances ,September 13 through September 15 at the Charlotte York Irey Theatre, CU Boulder University of Theatre & Dance, Boulder. Find information and tickets, starting at $30, at cupresents.org (individual tickets available beginning August 19).
Learn more about Ondine Geary and her work online.