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Annual Dance Show at NKU Brings All Kinds of Styles (and Students) to Stage

Bit by bit,
Putting it together...
Piece by Piece-
Only way to make a work of art.

– Stephen Sondheim 

NKU’S DANCE ’16 has contemporary, tap, theatre dance, jazz, hip-hop by students, faculty, guest artists, and nationally known choreographers.

When the dance concert of  mostly new, mostly short works takes the stage on March 18-19 in the Corbett Theatre at Northern Kentucky University’s Fine Arts Center, what audiences will see is a work of art that came together the way all art does – bit by bit, piece by piece.

Tracey Bonner, dance coordinator and assistant professor, is where the creation of this edition of the annual dance concert began – a year ago.

Just some of what she was thinking about at the time: “Who’s graduating, who’s not graduating, who has the skills, what guest artists do I bring to enhance those skills, who might want to choreograph, what are the things that I and the students want to say as artists?”

The last question was easy to answer, says Bonner. “Inclusion.” It was important to students and faculty to “have everyone feel they are a part of this,” so much so that for the first time, the convert isn’t attached to the dance department. “The goal was getting a lot more people invited to take part.”

The entire student body was invited to audition and among the 42 students performing are acting majors, a graphic design major, a student with a double major of chemistry and dance.

Favorite area choreographers (and NKU dance faculty) Dee Anne Bryll, Heather Britt, and Jay Goodlett bring work to the program. Bryll will choreograph NKU’s dance tour troupe, which she directs.

Guest choreographers are Kim Popa (Pones, Inc.), Andrew Pearson of the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company, and Balinese dancer Kamellia Smith, who moved to Covington in 2010. With Smith, Bonner wanted to bring a new dance flavor to NKU students and audiences.

Bonner has three pieces on the program, two new. Her work, she says, is “filling in holes” as she considers the program’s ‘flow.’ “Which students are performing in which dances?” There has to be time for costume changes. And she analyzes “what’s missing.”

Bonner’s revival is An Ethical Mandate. “It’s always of interest to me, marrying dance to social change. Through me, the students start to get interested. Mandate addresses gun violence with spoken word and dance. It asks, how far will we go before we say ‘enough’?”

Student choreographers bring an intriguing range of ideas and styles:

Maria Broderick has suffered a brain injury and her piece addresses the effects of brain injury through dance.

Lauren Crawford, inspired by a friend who recovered from a coma, wonders about someone in a coma and the world happening around her.

Brian Spencer’s character piece follows the lyrics of Fleetwood Mac songs.

Kyle Segar has created a hip-hop piece with 16 dancers. (It’s the first time hip hop is part of the spring concert.)

Kat Wolf is also a visual artist and Bonner says Wolf brings together linear movement and a blueprint. “The dancers are literally building a house.”

Acting major Andrew Wiemann collaborates with Bonner on a tap dance “in the style of the classic movie musical.”

DANCE ’16, March 18-19. Corbett Theatre, Fine Arts Center, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights. Tickets $10, students $8. 859-572-5464 and


NKU Theatre & Dance announced its 2016-17 season. Here it is:

NKU’s just-announced summer and 2016-2017 academic year theater season calendars are filled with must-sees. Nothing says summer – and sell-out -- like Neil Simon and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Tickets go on sale March 14.

The Commonwealth line-up:

Simon’s romantic charmer The Star Spangled Girl (June 8-26) takes us back to the Sixties and a pair of clean-cut radicals whose lives are turned upside-down when an all-American girl moves in next door.

The classic love songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein take the stage in the revue Some Enchanted Evening (July 6-24). Get lost in standards from the Golden Age of musicals: Carousel, Cinderella, The King and I, Oklahoma, South Pacific, and more.

NKU Theater/Dance 2016-2017 schedule:

The big season opens with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in a revival of a legendary adaptation by Frank Galati. It continues through toe-tapping musicals and wraps with the biennial Y.E.S. Festival of New American Plays.

The Grapes of Wrath, Sept. 29-Oct. 9. One of the great stage adaptations of a classic American novel, join the Joad family in the depths of the Great Depression on the road from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the promised land of California in a journey filled with heartbreak. , culminating in a soaring and deeply moving affirmation of the indomitability of the human spirit. The powerful themes of endurance, sacrifice, and family come together in an affirmation of the indomitability of the human spirit.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Oct. 25-30. Chicago, 1927. The great August Wilson takes audiences to a recording studio on the city’s South Side where Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, fights her record producers for control of her music. Hardened by years of ill-treatment and bad deals, she’s determined that “Black Bottom,” the song that bears her name, will be recorded her way. But the band’s swaggering young trumpet player, plans to catapult the band into the jazz age.

NOTE: Ma Rainey overlaps with a production of August Wilson’s Jitney at Playhouse in the Park. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see both.

Thoroughly Modern Millie, Dec. 1-11. It’s the Roaring Twenties, and a small-town girl has come to New York City to marry for money instead of love. Oh, the adventures she has, all singing and dancing. 

All Shook Up, Feb. 16-26.  It's 1955, and into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar-playing roustabout who changes everything. The story is all new, the hits are all Elvis as the hip-swiveling, lip-curling hero leads the townsfolk in classics including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Don't Be Cruel." The story is all new, the hits are all Elvis.

Season Extras: 

First Year Show, Nov. 18-20.  Meet NKU theater freshman and transfer students.

Dance ’17, March 31-April 1. See new works created by faculty, guest artists, and nationally renowned choreographers in theatre dance, contemporary and classical ballet, tap, modern, jazz, and world dance.

The Y.E.S. (Year End Series) Festival of New Plays, April 20-30.  Three world premieres, performed in rep in its 18th edition. Titles will be announced in January 2017.

Tickets will go in August. For more information on the Commonwealth and NKU academic year seasons call the NKU School of the Arts Box Office at 859-572-5464 or visit

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts