Five Questions for Tere O'Connor

Name: Tere O’Connor
Occupation: Choreographer

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Webster, NY which is outside of Rochester N,Y. I went to Purchase College as an actor but when I got there I found out about dance which in my understanding up to that point was an activity used to encircle TV stars on variety shows. I quickly knew I wanted to choreograph and moved to New York. Although I danced in 2 companies when I arrived, after a year and a half I decided I would not dance with other people anymore and began to work on my own choreography. I am still doing that.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

There definitely is NOT just one work of art, there are so many, but an important one was the film SALO by Pier Paolo Pasolini. It is a work of great violence used to create a potent anti-fascist statement. The work doesn’t answer ethical questions nor does it behave “ethically.” It forces the audience to examine where they sit on a moral spectrum. I understood that a potent political statement and a great artwork are not mutually exclusive. It was a touchstone for me. I used it as a barometer to measure the powerlessness of the didactic in art and I still think of it when I work.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

I wish I could sing really, really well because that would be amazing!

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

I am a professor at the University of Illinois and the artistic director of my company. My appointment at the university has me teaching for one semester each year and doing research for the rest of the year. A typical day would be comprised of some configuration of choreographing, teaching, writing grants, office work, writing, mentoring, touring, etc.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

I ‘ve had to make a lot of choices to be able to spend the amount of time I have spent on thinking about and making choreography. When I was young I did a million horrible jobs to keep going. It was never a question though, and I don’t mean to romanticise that. I just knew this was what I was going to do. Is the situation around it financially good ? Not really. But I have located other currencies and value systems that are fulfilling.


In association with
Tere O’Connor Dance
Wrought Iron Fog
June 23 – 26 at 7:30pm

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