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Genesis 2009 Winner Tim O'Donnell: Thoughts for the 2011 Finalists

O'DonnellMilwaukee Ballet recently caught up with Tim O’Donnell, winner of Genesis 2009. Now 25 years old, O’Donnell says he is still trying to juggle his dance career and choreographic career, but says winning the  competition has helped him focus more on the latter. This new focus helped inspire him to co-create a new dance company named ‘Ludwig’ in 2010 with colleagues Cass Mortimer Eipper and Emma Sandall (www.ludwig.com.au). This project, he notes, has given him the space to be continually creative while still honing his own dance skills. Tim O’Donnell was happy to share some of his experiences with Milwaukee Ballet, and a little advice to this year’s finalists.


“You’re Gonna Love Them”

Mr. O’Donnell’s was first acquainted with Milwaukee Ballet in 2005 when he was hired by Milwaukee Ballet’s previous Artistic Director Simon Dow to dance for West Australian Ballet.

Then in 2008 former Milwaukee Ballet dancer Douglas McCubbin came to Perth to dance as a guest artist with West Australian Ballet. O’Donnell recalls, “During his time here he stayed with me. After seeing some of my choreography Doug first suggested then insisted (thanks Doug) that I sent Michael Pink my work and try to enter the competition… the rest is history!”

O’Donnell notes he had met several Milwaukee Ballet dancers in addition to McCubbin, which gave him valuable insight into the Company. He knew that having seen these dancers perform, he would be working with skilled artists. There was one more thing O’Donnell said he was told to expect.

“Everyone I spoke to about the Company said exactly the same thing… ‘You’re going to love them.’ And you know what, they were right!!” he says, adding, “The people, everyone was just so so nice, and welcoming it was almost like I had known them my whole life. I guess I expected it would take a few weeks with the dancers to form relationships but I think it only took a few minutes!”

Games We PlayTim O'Donnell's The Games We Play 2009

Welcome to Wisconsin
Tim O’Donnell was on the sunny shores of his native Australia the day before he arrived for the 2009 Genesis competition…in February. Needless to say, he was in for a bit of a shock.

“Before I came to Milwaukee I had never seen snow! That also means that I had never really felt cold so that took a bit of adjusting. I remember my first day in Milwaukee so clearly…

I decided to go for a walk and see the sights, which is something I love to do when arriving in a new city. So off I went venturing into the unknown. Not far from the hotel I saw this amazing building that looked like it had two enormous wings coming out of it [the Milwaukee Art Museum], and I decided that should be my first stop.

Now, in front of me were two paths I could take: one along the road the other along the water and I thought the one along the water looked far more romantic so I went with that one…. Well this was my first mistake, for all the advice I had been given about living in snow covered places everyone seemed to forget to mention that paths can sometimes be covered in ICE!!! There I am on my first adventure in Milwaukee, flat on my back covered in snow with a very sore bottom! Not the best start to my trip, but once I finally navigated my way off the ice sheet on all fours I had a wonderful day in the great city of Milwaukee.”

Games 2Tim O'Donnell's The Games We Play 2009

“I already have my next Milwaukee work figured out!”

Tim O’Donnell certainly hasn’t been a stranger since winning the competition. He returned to Milwaukee in February 2010 to premiere Bolero – Let There Be Light. And fans of Milwaukee Ballet on Facebook may see his name pop when he leaves messages for the dancers.

When asked why he stays so close, he answered, “Working with the Company is an absolute joy, not just the dancers but everyone who works there make it so easy for me to create work. They are warm and kind people who will go out of their way to make your time there pleasant and enjoyable. The dancers in the Company are so trusting and committed to the choreographic process and it really shows when they are performing as I’m sure anyone who has seen them perform will agree.”

He adds, “I hope to continue building my relationship with the Company in the future and I can’t wait till I get to come back… I already have my next Milwaukee work figured out!”

GamesTim O'Donnell's The Games We Play 2009

To the 2011 Genesis Finalists – “Enjoy Every Second You Have”

Tim O’Donnell wanted to leave the 2011 Genesis finalists with a few words of wisdom. “Enjoy every second you have, because trust me you will be so sad when you leave.

Spend time with the other finalists, try to learn what you can from them. Honestly one of the greatest gifts I got from the competition was the knowledge and wisdom that Cameron and Maurice shared with me, still to this day whenever I’m choreographing I can hear them in my head.

And finally, be honest with who you are and create what you want to create. Use your time to explore your own creativity and don’t waste too much time stressing if your work is ‘competition worthy’ you are obviously talented so just trust your instincts!

Oh one more thing… take time to rest and play. It’s all part of the experience and will help keep you calm!”

choreosThe finalists of Genesis 2009: Maurice Causey, Tim O'Donnell and Cameron McMillan

The 2011 Genesis: International Choreographic Competition will take place February 10-13 in the Pabst Theater. This season’s finalists include Edgar Zendejas from Mexico, Lucas Jervies from Australia, and Mauro de Candia from Italy. Tickets range in price from $25-$89. Or take advantage of the Pints Before Pointe promotion and attend the show and a pre-mixer for $35. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Ballet’s Box office at (414) 902-2103.