Mary O'Rourke began her dance training in Buffalo, New York, and received her B.A. in dance from Loyola University Chicago. While at Loyola, she received several awards for her choreography, leadership, and research in dance. She has previously worked with Khecari as an understudy/performer in The Cronus Land, The Retreat, and participated in their July residency at the Chicago Cultural Center as a performer in TEEM part 2. Currently she is a performing artist with CDI/Concert Dance, Inc. under the direction of Venetia Stifler. She has presented choreography at the American College Dance Festival, Noumenon New Moves Choreography Competition, Going Dutch Festival, and at the Conservatory of Music in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In addition to traveling to Vietnam, she has traveled to Havana, Cuba to participate in a cultural exchange with La Escuela Nacional de Arte as well as collaborate on a dance for camera. She holds a deep interest in the relationship between dance and theatre and was able to explore this partnership in a collaborative process with director/deviser Ann Kreitman on a devised physical theatre work Les Innocents performed in Mason Hall at the Preston Bradley Center. She will continue to explore this partnership as a collaborative team member on (Re)discover Theatre’s For One, which will run through September. Mary makes her HOC debut in Ariane et Bachus.
What is the story of how you first came to love dance?
My parents tell me that when my mom was pregnant with me, she would feel me dancing whenever they put music on. My love for dance is something I was born with!
What was your first exposure to opera?
My first exposure to opera was in high school when I went on a choir trip to NYC and saw the New York City Opera perform Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore at Lincoln Center.
If you have danced in an opera before, how is it different from performing in a dance concert?
A couple of years ago I danced in Iphigénie en Tauride at Depaul University. A major difference between opera and dance performance is the direct relationship between the music and movement and how they really lend themselves to each other as it relates to storytelling and visual aesthetic. That experience really made me fall in love with opera and its cathartic power when paired with movement.
How is baroque dance different from the other styles that you perform?
I grew up training in classical ballet technique and now identify as a modern dancer. Baroque is VERY different from modern. Modern has a more released feeling with an emphasis placed on getting in and out of the floor whereas baroque has a very held alignment and tends to be more specific and intricate in its patterns.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
My schedule has definitely always been a major challenge to negotiate. As an artist it is so easy to engulf yourself in your work because it is something that feels good, but then you end up working nonstop and forgetting to create space to pause and breathe. Finding the sense of balance between work and leisure is definitely something that I have been trying to achieve, but I feel like that is a lifelong quest.
Do you have a favorite performer?
I love watching performers (mostly rock musicians actually) who so easily get lost in the music to the point where it is self-indulgent. That’s when you can tell that they aren’t just doing it for the fame but for internal fulfillment, which is truly beautiful to witness.
Do you have a favorite role? Or a favorite Ballet or Modern Dance?
It is hard to nail down one work that would be my favorite. As a choreographer myself, I am very interested in the effort to explore untouched territory or content and find myself very affected by work that fills its own niche.
Do you have any favorite books about dance?
Martha Graham’s autobiography Blood Memory will always resonate with me.
What else are you reading?
I just finished a Margaret Atwood book called Cat’s Eye. Now I am reading a Michael Pollan book called Cooked that essentially walks you through the history of cooking with an emphasis placed on each of the four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. I try and switch back and forth between fiction and nonfiction.
Who are your favorite choreographers?
I’ve always admired the theatricality of Pina Bausch’s work so she is definitely up there on my list. Dance is an art that is ever evolving so it is really hard to pick favorites because I believe that everyone’s work holds a special place in time that captures the essence of dance in a specific era.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
A Bob Dylan vinyl would do. It would suit my new island tree house lifestyle (which is actually a true dream of mine).
What do you love about HOC?
I really admire Haymarket’s commitment to the preservation of style and era in the work that they do. I think it is really valuable to maintain the history of an art form as a means of educating and enticing an audience in a unique way that pays homage to the foundations behind contemporary work.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not dancing?
I am a lover of the outdoors, so any outlet I can take whether it be camping, going on a day hike, or just setting my hammock up in a park I am happy.
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
I wake up and immediately search the house for any dessert/chocolate type food. Sugar definitely gets me going and I crave it in the morning.
What kind of music do you listen to most often?
Classic Rock. Although I have very eclectic taste- some days I am feeling Spanish Guitar, some days the blues, some days I just want to listen to early 2000’s pop hits. But mostly classic rock.
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
When I was thinking about college I either wanted to pursue my passion for the arts or go to school to be an engineer. I was deeply into math and physics. Vastly different interests but I am so glad I chose to pursue dance!