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From the time I was very young, I had this distinct notion that everyone early in life, first learned to crawl, then walk and then of course, dance and choreograph. I see movement, line, texture and gesture in music, art and everyday surroundings. I hear music and sound and see color, movement and gesture.
In the performing arts, especially dance, the medium includes body, sound and space. After the dancer has been trained with technical skills, the choreographer takes the movement vision and develops it. The performer then becomes part of the composition and creative process.
Having been a dance maker most of my life and dance educator for three decades, I have had the opportunity to create and teach in a vast array of settings. Among the many classes I teach, choreography and composition are my favorites. Watching, mentoring, and guiding young choreographers into the world of creating art through movement has been an exceptional experience.
Watching, mentoring, and guiding young choreographers into the world of creating art through movement has been an exceptional experience.
The process of composition has similarities regardless of the medium. This became highly evident to me several years ago when a number of our dancers needed audition photos for college scholarship and summer intensive auditions. After a great deal of frustration in orchestrating and attempting to capture the right moment, I invested in a professional camera. Following the audition season was I discovered something new… choreography for the page. The Sony camera, affectionately named Trixie, became a constant companion and fellow adventurer. She accompanied me as I enticed a dancer to pose before a cloud filled sky, against the backdrop of ornate architecture, or was showered in diffused light from a window. Trixie was named after a class lecture about the muse of dance, Terpsichore. A late-comer waltzed in, not knowing what the lecture topic was about and innocently chimed in “Who is Trixie?!” The name stuck and refers both to my camera and the creative muse. Trixie doesn’t take no for an answer and will bother me until I do something about what she is attempting to show me, be it choreography, writing, or photography.
With the addition of photography to my creative adventures, everything looks new to me, similar to when I hear music and see movement. To add to it, I see diffused light, fog, or shadows and I am drawn to create something. Often times with little warning, the nearest subject is drawn into my vortex of creating new work.
Regardless of the medium, a new piece of choreography, directing a stage production, penning a new piece or capturing a dancer on film, creativity is the basis of all… and I am fortunate to be able to act upon the creative adventures, making a living as an artist. Some things you do and some things you are… this is definitely something that is an innate part of me.
For over four decades, Julian Adair has performed in and choreographed numerous productions in the Omaha metropolitan area. As the successful business owner of Adair Dance Academy, she was one of the first to establish a modern dance venue for area choreographers. These companies, Tanzlust, Inc. and Dance Conspiracy, Inc. provided annual exhibitions for modern choreographers to showcase their work.
A recipient of a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Creighton University, she has used this experience in creating works for major dance programs and has performed and choreographed professionally for thirty years.
As an award winning choreographer and director, she has been on the creative staff in over 100 theatrical productions and has served on the boards of the Omaha Modern Dance Collective and Theatre Arts Guild. Her latest venture involves her production company, Ever After Productions. Julian is the producer, playwright and director of the annual holiday presentation, “Nutcracker Delights” now in its eighth season.
Her supporting cast includes her husband, Steve and their daughters Camille and Colette, who are budding performers themselves. All three share her enthusiasm for the performing arts and her art photography.
To read more about Julian’s work:
Dance runs in our family. My sister and I grew up knowing how fond of dance my mother was, and at a young age started attending the same studio she did, focusing on ballet, tap, and jazz with other children of the same age group. The passion and emotion I saw in my mother as she helped teach us the different postures and steps transferred over to me. My parents even bought me a video compilation of Michael Jackson videos and so I could memorize and perform his routines.
Once a year we would have a grand recital at the Orpheum in downtown Omaha where we would perform several dances in front of thousands of family, friends, and fans. The scariest part of the experience was being on stage in front of all those people, with bright lights shining down on me, not being able to see the audience or how many people were watching. But it was also the best part. It helped me gain confidence and taught me how to express my emotions through “dancing like no one is watching.” Once you’ve experienced it, you can never forget that feeling.
I danced for the studio for 13 years, until high school brought a new set of interests and experiences. Similarly to how my mother still does arabesques across the house, I still dance every chance I get and cannot fathom a life without being able to express myself in that way. Whether it is professional ballet, street dancing, or busting a move at work – it is something I love doing and will continue to do for the rest of my life.
The arts have been a huge influence in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Karli Kristina Burt was born and raised in in Omaha, Nebraska. She danced for 13 years starting at just age 3 for Pat Carlson’s Dance Studio focusing on ballet, tap, and jazz. She received her undergraduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently pursuing her masters at The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health. She is currently working at UNMC as an administrative projects associate. In her spare time, she enjoys being active and doing anything outdoors, especially if it involves boating, fishing, or being in the sun.
The guiding principal for me is, “Hwendo na bua” which in my language, Fon, means, “Our culture and origin will not disappear.” I grew up in Benin; a small country in West Africa. In order to maintain strong family ties, and pass on history, values and traditions, my mother would bring her children together for stories before bedtime. One important way in which West African traditions and cultures are being preserved is through the art of vivid and exciting storytelling. Furthermore, I was exposed to traditional ceremonies during frequent visits to my mother’s home village of Ouidah. I loved the drumming and dancing, and even as a child, I absorbed the significance of the rituals as well as their pageantry. I embody the spirit of the original intent of the dances and costumes.
Teaching people to sway their hips, wave their arms, and pound the beat is what motivates me to keep sharing these incredible cultures and traditions. My youthful experience with the folktales of West Africa and its animals, customs, and beliefs lets me spin my audience into magical lands filled with colorful sights and sounds. I connect drums, dances, and songs into a single story; the patterns and colors of textiles and details of costuming are critical to my telling of the tale.
I bring the traditional culture and arts of West Africa to groups of underserved, largely African-American young people in Nebraska and western Iowa and help them to appreciate the value of African culture and African people. It is what keeps me going every day. In traditional West African cultures every aspect of life has a specific dance and music to accompany the telling of the story. That is why learning traditional West African dance and music is to simultaneously learn and embrace all of a given culture. I speak many languages such as: Fon, Yoruba, Mina, Goun, French, and English, but I need no language to communicate. Instead, I dance. When dancers put on a costume, we show who we are; in doing so, I demonstrate the similarities and the differences among the world’s people.
In March 2012, the authenticity of my voice, my leadership skills, my passion, and the impact of my teaching earned African Culture Connection and me the Governor’s Arts Award in Heritage Arts and national recognition as one of twelve winners of the prestigious 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award presented in November 2012 at The White House.
Charles Ahovissi began his dancing career in 1984 when he joined the National Ballet Company of Benin, West Africa. He left the National Ballet in 1987 and joined the Super Anges Dance Troop that toured extensively throughout the world performing and teaching traditional African dance and music. In 2000, Charles relocated to the United States. Since moving to Omaha, Charles has taught and performed at many schools and organizations as a Nebraska and Iowa Arts Council teaching artist. He has also conducted on-going public classes in dance and drumming in connection with the UNO’s Moving Company at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 2006, he co-founded the non-profit, African Culture Connection, to be able to reach more schools and organizations in and around Nebraska and Iowa. He received his Associate’s Degree in Arts & Liberal Arts, from Metropolitan Community College and is working on his Bachelor’s.
I see choreography in everyday life. Whether it’s cars moving to the side of the road to make way for an ambulance or someone holding open the door for the next customer at the convenience store, people know the steps and understand their role in the dance.
I continue to be moved by the commitment we make to the choreography. Standing hand over heart for the national anthem, allowing another customer to go ahead in line, or my personal favorite, high-fiving a total stranger at a sporting event, I find myself emotional at times when the movement is executed with genuine passion and dedication. Our common language of gestures is beautiful, complicated, cultural, effective, and can be hurtful as often as it can be uplifting.
My dance background influences everything I do from the way I navigate a cluttered room to how I pack for a vacation. I try to think two steps ahead and plot my path from point B to point B. I economize movement when working my way through a crowded high school hallway and when called for, employ bold expansive motions to impress a particular point.
I think in general, artists are attempting to make sense of the world as they perceive it through the form that best expresses their understanding. It is a wonderful privilege to work on behalf of the artists in Nebraska as I advocate for arts policy and education. I seek to ensure that Nebraska artists will always have the opportunity connect our lives to their inherent artistry.
Marian Fey is the new Director of Nebraskans for the Arts, the non-profit citizen’s advocacy organization dedicated to arts funding and arts education throughout the state. She comes to NFTA with a background in non-profit administration and arts education. She is the mother of a writer, a jazz guitarist, a vocalist, and an actor and is married to a scientist.