White Bird Remembers Mary Oslund
White Bird mourns the passing of Mary Oslund, a supremely gifted dance artist. We were proud to commission and present two programs created by Mary, in January 2004 and January 2011. In April 2016, we were delighted to give Mary White Bird’s Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award.
Today, November 17, 2020, upon learning of Mary Oslund’s passing, Walter Jaffe and Paul King, Co-Founders of White Bird, offered the following memories:
“We are deeply saddened to hear of Mary Oslund’s passing. While we know that she had been in declining health over the past years, we never believed that she would no longer be with us. We were thrilled to call Mary a close friend. We invited her to many performances, the last being the Merce Cunningham program in November 2019, a choreographer she so admired. We were tremendously happy seeing her at this show a year ago, and especially receiving the following email from her: “The company did an excellent version of Merce’s work. I loved the whole show.”
We first saw Mary’s work at Conduit shortly after we arrived in Portland in 1996, and we knew immediately that Mary had a unique choreographic voice. We believe that we saw everything that Mary created, including work commissioned by PICA, and we quickly realized that Mary developed a movement technique that could not be easily categorized—highly physical, complex yet emotionally powerful. Her White Bird program in January 2004 included retrospective work as well as a new piece “Volant,” which we commissioned. Her dancers demonstrated total commitment to performing these intensely complicated yet moving pieces.
In 2010 we decided to commission a full-length work, which we would not only present but also help in tour in the U.S. and other countries. At a memorable dinner we had with Mary, she was so excited at this prospect, and we could not wait to see the results.
We then heard the sad news that in summer 2010 she became ill and it would be a struggle for her to complete this work. With invaluable assistance from Rinda Chambers and Jim McGinn, she created “Childhood Star,” beautifully danced by her 9-member company, lit by Jeff Forbes (White Bird’s long-time Technical Director), with a set design by Christine Bourdette. The work premiered in January 2011 at Lincoln Hall, and received standing ovations. We believe that this was the final dance work Mary created.
Our hearts go out to Mary’s daughters Liv and Corinna and the family of dancers she developed, who became life-long friends. We are proud that Mary considered us part of her family. We loved her deeply and will miss her terribly.
White Bird Program
Photo by Basil Childers
White Bird Presents Childhood Star
Oslund + Co with Barney, Childhood Star group photo, January 2011