was born March 1989 in Detroit, Michigan, USA, where she grew up. Her mother was a passionate disco dancer and taught her many of the dances. For Breanna, dance was the most direct form of expression and she soon decided she wanted to be a dancer. At the age of twelve she applied for Mary Lou Parker’s Elite Dance Program and was accepted. The students were required to attend at least two weekly lessons in the categories ballet, jazz and modern dance and to take part in performances. The experiences she gained there encouraged her to continue pursuing her chosen career. In 2007 she switched to the Juilliard School in New York, where she continued developing her technique and expressive skills till 2011, winning the school’s Joseph W. Polisi Award for her work promoting dance in her home town. During this period she was already performing in various choreographies: in New York in works by José Limón, Ohad Naharin, Jack Ferver, Larry Keigwin, Ryan McNamara, Stijn Celis and Alexander Ekman; in Montreal in a piece by Marie Chouinard and in London in a piece by Mike Figgis. She also founded Detroit Arts Immersion in 2009, to bring workshops and performances to the city. Her eyes were opened in New York, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, when she first saw a piece by Pina Bausch live: Bamboo Blues. Above all it was the power to express emotions which fascinated her.
A change of scene: Germany
From 2012 to 2014 she was engaged by Johannes Wieland at the Staatstheater Kassel and performed in Vienna in a production by Chris Haring. After a long selection process, from the 2014/15 season she became a member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble and up until her departure after the 2019/20 season played countless roles in the repertoire pieces, including 1980, Café Müller, The Rite of Spring, He Takes Her By The Hand And Leads Her Into The Castle, The Others Follow, The Seven Deadly Sins, Viktor, Arien, Nelken (Carnations), Palermo Palermo, Kontakthof, Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört (On the Mountain a Cry was heard), Der Fensterputzer (The Window Washer), Nefés, Vollmond, For the children of yesterday, today and tomorrow and 'Sweet Mambo'. She immediately felt at home in Pina Bausch’s pieces. She was fascinated to learn the organic flow of the movements: the arms continually reaching out into the space, which spoke of a desire for touch, and the pain of desire unfulfilled. Again and again it was the works’ reduction to an essence, their simplicity and clarity, describing a deep humanity, which made an impression on her.
A key experience was when she took on Pina Bausch’s own role in Café Müller. Dancing with closed eyes focussed her awareness of the space in a particular way. The contrast between the inner calm and concentration of the dancer and the clattering din of the chairs, which must be moved out of the way, made the piece feel like a transgression between life and death, an oscillation between desire and reality in a borderland of poetry.
Aside from the Pina Bausch repertoire Breanna O‘Mara also danced in works by Dimitris Papaioannou and Cecilia Bengolea / François Chaignaud. Since 2009 she has created various choreographies of her own, performed in New York, Detroit, Kassel and Ancona. In 2020 she joined the board of the Pina Bausch Foundation.
Text by Norbert Servos
Translated by Steph Morris