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Company Bios

Drika Overton

Artistic Director, The Mother

"Her dance style is fluid, intensely musical, long-legged, long-armed, long blonde hair flying, reflecting a passion for jazz tap rhythms and counterpoint. She has a wicked sense of humor and whimsy that adds a layer of spice to her work." - Dean Diggins

Drika Overton, director of The SPACE, Clara's Dream and the Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival

Drika's career as a jazz tap artist has spanned over two decades and includes work as a producer, director, educator, performer and choreographer.

She is the creator and artistic director of the internationally recognized Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival and Clara's Dream: a jazz nutcracker and works throughout New England and the US.

Drika has received numerous awards for her work including an Artist fellowship from New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and Art Builds Community! funded by the Lila-Wallace Readers' Digest Fund.

She has been a featured artist at the New York City Tap Festival; the Southeastern TapExplosion in Atlanta; the Bates Dance Festival; the New England Artist's Congress; Liz Lerman's Dance Exchange's Shipyard Project; Public Television; and numerous jazz clubs, concerts, and festivals.

"You don't forget her performance, it is always dynamic. Drika's clear taps hit very interesting, fresh and inventive syncopations when she is dancing her own choreography. Her tall and very expressive body punctuates the rhythms her feet are playing. The last time I saw her dance to classical music in choreography created by Dean Diggins to the Goldberg Variations, she seemed to float effortlessly across the floor with the control and sensitivity that only a master tapper can achieve with a lifetime of practice and performance." - Brenda Bufalino

Drika is the artistic director of MaD Theatricals, a unique collaboration of nationally and internationally recognized jazz and tap artists, and co-directs and choreographs for the Youth Jazz Dance Project.


Paul Arslanian

Music Director

Paul Arslanian, musical director

Paul Arslanian, a professional pianist, composer and dance accompanist since 1970, began working with tap dancers in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1974. As Musical Director for the Jazz Tap Ensemble (1979-1984) and the "Fascinating Rhythms" tour for Boston's Dance Umbrella (1992-1995), he toured the U.S. and Europe and worked with dancers such as Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Honi Coles, and Jimmy Slyde.

In addition to his own 1994 CD "It's The Feeling That Counts", his compositions have been recorded by jazz artists John Hicks, George Coleman and Roy Hargrove. Paul made his theatre debut composing and performing music for People's Light and Theatre Company in Philadelphia, and his score for Arabian Nights was nominated for a Barrymore Award as "Best Original Music" in 1997. Paul also composed new music for Twelfth Night, performed by the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival in 1996.

Brenda Bufalino

Auntie Groove

Brenda Bufalino

Brenda Bufalino founded the The American Tap Dance Orchestra in 1986. She performs and teaches throughout the U.S. and in Israel, Italy, England, Germany, France, and Australia. She has appeared as a guest soloist in such prestigious arenas as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She also performed in concert with the late Charles "Honi" Coles, touring America, England, France, and appeared on BBC Television in England and on cable for "Atlantic City Live."

A trailblazer in the renaissance of jazz and tap dance, Brenda has been one of the guiding forces in the creation of the numerous tap festivals, summits, reunions and workshops happening worldwide. Ms. Bufalino has also made her name as an author, actress, producer and director. Her one-person shows, "Cantata & the Blues", "Journals Of A Woodpecker" & "Unaccompanied" have delighted audiences in New York City and on tour-both in the United States and abroad. She has appeared off-Broadway in "The Courtroom," directed by Bill Irwin. Ms. Bufalino has been awarded numerous choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and The New York Foundation for the Arts.
www.BrendaBufalino.com

Dean Diggins

The Father

Dean Diggins

Dean Diggins had the good fortune of studying for many years with the legendary Paul Draper, who was the first performer to specialize in tap dancing to classical music. Greatly influenced by Draper's unique approach, Dean has been soloist in Morton Gould's "Tap Dance Concerto" with symphony orchestras, has performed and choreographed works to music by Handel, Bach, Albinoni and other classical composers, and has taught his classical tap approach in workshops and festivals around the country. He was a founding member of The Mattison Trio, a tap group who performed in clubs, theaters, and on television in the US, Europe, and South America, and who made numerous appearances on the Ed Sullivan TV Show.

Josh Hilberman

The Jazz Nut

Josh Hilberman

Reviews

A highly pedigreed performer who has appeared alongside most every hoofer of note, Joshua Hilberman received the 2005 National College Choreography Initiative award from the National Endowment for the Arts/Dance USA. In May, 2006 he received the "Premi Claqueta," Barcelona's International Tap Day Award, in recognition of his decade of contributions to tap in Catalunya.

Hilberman has been a featured soloist at New York's Lincoln Center and in jazz festivals from Australia to Barcelona and all over New England; was a principal dancer for three years in Manhattan Tap and has performed in Brenda Bufalino's Other Tap Dance Orchestra; teaches and performs at tap festivals including Tap City (NYC), Finland's Feet Beat, Vancouver, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, and annually at The North Carolina Rhythm Tap Festival and The Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival.

Josh collaborated on "Clara's Dream: A Jazz Nutcracker," celebrating six seasons as the Jazz Nut. He is also a collaborator in Thomas Marek's "About Tap," multi-media portraits of tap dancers, which plays for a third season in 2007 in Germany's prestigious modern dance center, Kampnagel.

In addition to a choreographic residency with the Canadian company Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Hilberman has set works on groups in Germany, Holland, and Spain, and on four nationally recognized youth ensembles: The North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble, Washington DC's Tappers with Attitude, the Jefferson Dancers (OR), and The Legacy Dancers(MA).

Josh developed his teaching chops at the prestigious Leon Collins Dance Studio, and has been a faculty member at Roger Williams and Mount Holyoke Universities as well as the Boston Conservatory of Music and Dance. Currently, Hilberman freelances internationally.

Further propaganda can be found on his web site: www.Hilbermania.com

Christine Hounsell

The Maid

Christine Hounsell

director of the Dance Program for the newly created Arts Rochester, earned her B.A. and M.Ed. from the University of New Hampshire where she performed with the UNH Dance Company. She was the founder of Rochester Creative Arts Center, which became the basis for Arts Rochester's dance programs. Christine has studied with many tap masters, including Brenda Bufalino and Steve Condos, and with jazz pioneers Matt Mattox and Billy Siegenfeld.

She performs professionally with Drika Overton & MaD Theatricals and recently was a guest dancer with the Cab Calloway Orchestra.  Christine also co-directs the Youth Jazz Dance Project of NH, a company of auditioned and trained young dancers who study and perform the uniquely American art of jazz dance.  Their repertory includes a full range of jazz vocabulary from its origins in African and Irish, to swing and Lindy hop, be-bop and Latin, rhythm tap and body music.  Fusing heritage with innovation has become the hallmark of YJDP's work.

Gay Nardone

Aunt Camille

Gay Nardone is the chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of New Hampshire. Gay began her career with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, and danced with the June Taylor Dancers of the Jackie Gleason television show before going on to getting both her B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the Boston Conservatory. Gay and long-time friends Josh Hilberman and Drika Overton performed as the tap ensemble StopTime in the early 90's. She specializes in teaching jazz and tap, and recently introduced the new art form of aerial dancing to audiences in the Seacoast area. Her inventive choreography has been seen in many operas and musicals, including Into the Woods and Dona Francisquita at UNH, as well as No No Nanette for Prescott Park. Gay choreographs and co-directs the UNH Dance Company.

Sekou Sylla

The African Drummer

Sekou Sylla

Sekou Sylla, artistic director of The Bamidele Drummers and Dancers, was a principal dancer, acrobat and musician with Les Ballets Africain, the National Dance Company of the Republic of Guinea, West Africa until he relocated to Massachusetts in 1996. Sekou has taught and performed all over the world including Africa, Australia, Europe, Spain, Japan, Mexico, and North and South America. He currently teaches at Mt. Holyoke College, Greenfield Community College, and the Pioneer Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts in Hadley, MA. Sekou received an outstanding review from The New York Times for his work with Les Ballets Africains and is in demand as a musician, dancer and choreographer.

Bob Thomas

Uncle Dross

Bob Thomas

Bob E. Thomas is an American vernacular dancer, dance historian, eccentric dancer, and physical comedian. He has written and performed numerous acclaimed solo shows, and performed around the world with his wife Idy as the dance team The Kamikaze Jitterbugs. In addition to performing on national TV with the Boston Pops and touring Asia with the Artie Shaw Orchestra, Bob and Idy travel extensively performing their historical show, "The Roots of American Dance: The African-European Synthesis 1850-1940."

Bob created the memorable character of Uncle Dross in "Clara's Dream."

"Bob E. Thomas finds a warmly entertaining off-the-wall energy somewhere between Mr. Rogers and Robin Williams." --Edmonton Journal

Bob's web site: www.bobethomas.com

Katey Yoder

former "Clara," character development & choreography

Katey Yoder

Katey Yoder began a tap dancing career on Peaks Island, Maine, with Doreen McCann when she was five. She has studied with Master teachers Brenda Bufalino, Josh Hilberman, Dean Diggins, Dianne Walker, Sarah Petronio, Jeannie Hill, Drika Overton and others, including tap legends Harold Nicholas, Leonard Reed, Prince Spencer, Cholly Atkins and Ernest Brown. She danced in the premier of Clara's Dream in 2000, and this is her fourth season in the role of "Clara".   She has performed at the Maine Festival, the Saco River Grange Hall, in the Sound of Movement at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH, the University of Southern Maine, the Prescott Park Arts Festival, in The Best of Broadway at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME and has appeared as a featured soloist with the Cab Calloway Orchestra.

A costume and clothing designer, she designed and created the costumes for Clara's Dream. She has designed the gowns for "The Best of Broadway," a fund raiser for the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME since 1996. She began her stage costuming at age 13, designing and sewing the gowns for "Eliza" in "My Fair Lady". She has costumed such shows as "Fiddler on the Roof", "The Music Man," "Guys and Dolls," "Peter Pan," "Anything Goes," "Godspell" and "1776". She is working on creating a clothing line, Katey Basics, and in 2001, started The Swell Company, a design company currently producing reproduction linens from the 1940's.

    
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