John Ollom

Ollom Art

"My language is; we’re humans, and let’s talk about rate, color and vibration in the space and in the body. Don’t get hung up on male or female, or social constructs, because it limits our potential, not only in movement, but in our lives."

Artist, teacher and healer John Ollom came to us through our expanding network, and we set out one afternoon to see what he does. We found him teaching a ballet class that consisted of a cross section of ages, and while some had more physical capabilities than others, everyone moved, and everyone danced. There was a commitment to joy in their dance that one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in life. John himself is dedicated to helping others find that joy in movement and is a self-professed champion of the underdog. There were certainly no underdogs in class that day….only happy people who had left whatever cares they have in life at the door for the hour.

John: "It started off specifically as dance, going into ballet, Dance Theater, and now it’s more movement, art and healing. It’s kind of evolved over time. I used to work with a lot of people, and now I’m working with less people, but deeper. For example, in the dance world, there are people that are just stuck in shapes whether it’s modern or ballet or contemporary, people who are hung up on perfection and it’s kind of 'bound' them, literally and emotionally. When I did my graduate work, I started researching Jungian psychology and getting into the internal depths of people.

I started getting into musical theater as a child because they don’t put little boys in dance class. When I found what was my first dance concert, I remember specifically what I saw and thought 'what is this?' I was seeing these shapes and colors and moving bodies. My dad came up to me and said 'if I ever see you doing that shit on stage, I’ll whip you off that stage so fast you won’t know what happened to you.' They began giving me ultimatums and when I decided to dance I had to leave them. I left Ohio, I had to change my degree, I dropped out of pre-med; it was a big thing. So I had to fight to dance. It was a very traumatic thing.

I really believe in dance on a lot of levels. It’s not just a dance class. It’s emotional, it’s sexual, it’s spiritual, it’s psychological…it has a lot of value on a lot of levels. I really believe in that and I’ve fought for that for a long time. I don’t only just do my work in my performance art, I also support people to come with me. Every month we do a series where there’ll be an artist, a painter or a sculptor, and people who come along with me. It’s not just 'everybody dance for John and do his thing,' it’s also where people are at. I bring them with me, not only making art as a product, but there are people like Sonia who is 84 years old and has been with me for 16 years."

Sonia: "I feel, in a sense, younger, and my body feels younger. My body feels good, and then, of course, I feel good. It’s John’s approach, his personality and his generosity, and you know that he’s giving everything he can. I find that very moving."

Jeannette: "I’m a dancer and I’ve been a dancer practically all my life ever since I was a young kid. I was in an accident and was hit by a bus. I had to go through two years of recuperation and rehabilitation. No matter what kind of mood you’re in, when you start moving your body any way, even if you just go walking or dancing any way, it’s a way to heal."

Jim: "Movement gives some people a mantra that keeps them centered, and for others a way to express their emotions that they may not be able to express in other ways. A lot of times men have difficulty in expressing, at least verbally, but through movement, some men are extremely expressive."

John: "I consciously make choices to make it a safe space. For example, a lot of people come to me with sexual trauma. I know people that label that as ‘you’re a survivor.’ But when you use that word ‘survivor,' you’re labeling yourself to the trauma. Let’s talk about you as a human with potential."

Shirley: "I love that feeling of just presenting myself. Letting my arms go and my fingers go, just letting my body go to movements."

Jim: "I think art, in any way we do it, helps us find out who we are, so that we can be better at being a person, being better to people around us, and being better in the world."