photo: Julie Keefe
"One of the few Portland performers who can boast more than two decades of creative activity in the state, Mary Oslund has managed to stay as innovative and vital as when she first founded her company."

Deborah Broderson, Willamette Week


As a choreographer, teacher and performer, Mary Oslund is one of the Pacific Northwest's leading dance artists. Throughout her career, she has advanced the discipline of contemporary dance through the exploration and creation of new work with choreography marked by compelling and expressive physicality, movement invention, specialized group work, and a unique approach to partnering. Oslund is a 2009 Individual Fellowship recipient from the Oregon Arts Commission.

"I make dances from a keen interest in the body and movement, the richness of work with artists in other forms, the breadth of possibility within choreographic design and statement. I want to create work that is at once complex, captivating and mysterious."

Through her company, Mary Oslund renders a fresh and unusual form of contemporary dance. Her choreography inevitably evolves from physical and intellectual research and exploration, building from elemental movement invention towards an intricate orchestration of the individual performer within ensemble choreography. From a dynamic, interactive studio process involving the dancers and collaborating artists, the startling choreography that emerges is urban and contemporary, rigorous and singular.

Dialogue and partnerships with other artists and forms have been pivotal to Oslund’s career and working process. Her choreography often draws material from literature, film, theater, and the visual arts, and is frequently created with original music composed specifically for the work. Each season, she engages resident and guest lighting and costume designers to work as true partners.

A native Oregonian, Oslund left the region to study as an undergraduate and graduate at The Ohio State University, where she received a BFA and a MA and toured the Midwest and East with original work. She now resides in Portland,where she has based her performance and teaching work since 1984. Oslund’s primary influences are studies in classical ballet at the University of Utah with Gordon Paxman; at The Ohio State University with Vera Blaine, Lynn Dally, Peter Saul and numerous guest artists. Work with contact improvisation, as well study and collaboration with artists and companies in New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland have also been influential.

One of the strongest influence for Oslund's career and vision as a dancer and choreographer came through her association with Merce Cunningham and one of his earliest company members, Viola Farber. Her work reflects this influence in its interest in intricate detail and form, the architecture of choreography, the collaboration and co-creation of dance with artists in a diversity of forms, indeterminacy, and construction methodology that unearths structure and order from sources ulterior to the individual intellect.

Oslund's teaching career has included serving on the faculties of Reed College, Lewis &Clark College, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University. She founded and directed Dance Works Studio in Eugene, Oregon and co-founded and now co-directs Conduit studio in Portland, both of which have provided a home base for Oslund +Company/Dance.