Crushin’ on: Peter O’Brien

Love week continues! In honor of Valentine’s Day, we reveal to you one of Dance Exchange’s local crushes: Peter O’Brien. Peter is a regular at FRIDAY CLASS (he’s been at almost every class since we started our series last June) and at our local performances and events. He’s made a big impression on the dancers and staff at Dance Exchange and we are delighted to profile him today.

DX + P.O. 4 EVER


Where are you from? How did you come to DC?

I’m from the Washington, D.C. area, and have lived here most of my life. I’m originally from Indiana, but my family moved here when I was five.

Where do you work?

I’m an artist and office assistant. Sometimes my office job allows for creativity. The rest I do at home. But I’m definitely a creative person.

How did you hear about Dance Exchange?

I hung out with friends in Takoma Park when I was in high school. That’s when I first heard of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

When did you start taking classes here and why?

I started taking classes here in 2008. I had recently seen a performance of the Missouri Contemporary Ballet in Columbia, Missouri. I was sitting on the floor behind the tape line and the dance came right up to me. Afterwards, I couldn’t say no. I wanted to do what they did. I looked up contemporary ballet and saw it was integrating classical ballet and modern dance, like tonic and juice. When I returned home to DC, I looked for a class. Contemporary ballet wasn’t taught around here, so it was either ballet or modern. I said: great, I’ll do both. Dance Exchange was nearby and offered modern dance. So I knew I had to do this. It was exciting.

Any memorable moments from class?

Here’s one from class last week [with Lori Yuill]: We were focusing on moving with a certain awareness and emphasis. All but one of us had finished, and the rest of us just observed, quietly, as the last dancer extended it a little bit and a little bit more—it was like a jazz solo that went over. Another moment you might remember, Sarah, because you were my spotter for this one. Basically, I was walking in a hand stand with my eyes closed, around a bunch of people, and you made some kind of funny sound, because maybe you weren’t expecting that. Of course, I couldn’t see you, I could only picture it. Another fun one was turning cartwheels while maintaining eye contact with a partner who was also turning cartwheels. Not a bad way to cross the floor. Sorry, that’s three moments…

What sorts of connections do you find between your work and dance?

I was going to say: there’s no connection between my work and dance, except that I think my job may be becoming more creative. Maybe your question gave me some ideas. Initially, I think you adjust to a job, but if you’re there long enough there’s a shift. The job adjusts to you. Paradoxically, outside of my full-time job is where much of the work I love to do takes place: art, music, creative writing, theater, dance. The whole gestalt of the experience of doing these things and being in the flow when it’s going well is the same.  Then there’s the creative process in general, and the experimentation that goes on–sometimes messy–that happens across all art forms.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Since I started coming, it’s been great to see both new and familiar faces at Dance Exchange. Many of the students teach here, there are visiting teachers, and many of the teachers perform. It’s terrific. I stomp for E.E. Balcos, Meghan Bowden, Tzveta Kassabova, Arno Schuitemaker, Keith Thompson, Lauren Withhart, and Dance Exchange! It’s been electric, physical, bold, challenging, supportive, and generous, on top of exciting, organic, multi-generational, and evolving. Anyone into modern dance should come, bring a friend, and enjoy the videos [on DX’s Youtube channel]. Classes are an even bigger steal now—$12.00 for 1 hour 45 minutes. Make a contribution if you can.

About Sarah Levitt

Sarah Levitt (Resident Artist/Communications Coordinator) is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in Maryland.