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Drika Overton

Theatre Dance Department Faculty

Drika Overton's career has spanned over 25 years and includes work as a performer, teacher, choreographer, producer and presenter. She is the creator and artistic director of the internationally recognized Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival and MaD Theatricals, a unique collaboration of nationally and internationally recognized jazz and tap artists creating the critically acclaimed productions Clara's Dream a jazz nutcracker and Music Hall Follies: A Vaudeville in 9 Acts with special guest artists Bill Irwin and Fayard Nicholas. Since 1990, she has produced and performed in concerts to promote jazz and tap to wide audiences throughout the region. In 2003, Overton created The Portsmouth Vaudeville Project, a community project that included the Intergenerational Jazz Project and documentary, as well as the documentary 4 Theatres: Remembering Portsmouth in the Age of Vaudeville, which aired on NH Public Television and at film festivals around the country.

Overton has shared the stage with such acclaimed artists as Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne Walker and Keith Terry. She has been a featured soloist at the Duke Theater in New York as part of the New York City Tap Festival; the Southeastern TapExplosion in Atlanta; RhythmExplosion, Bozeman, MT; the Bates Dance Festival; the New England Artist's Congress'; The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Shipyard Project; on Public Television; and at numerous jazz clubs, concerts and festivals.

Overton has received four Spotlight on the Arts Awards from the Seacoast Newspapers as Best Dancer and for Best Dance Production for Clara's Dream a jazz nutcracker, a production also featured in the BBC documentary "Fascinating Rhythms." She has received an Artist Fellowship and New Works grants from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts as well as grants from the Greater Piscataqua Community Foundation, Art Builds Community! funded by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and The New England Foundation for the Arts. In 2007, she was awarded the New Hampshire Governor's Arts Award for Distinguished Arts Leadership.

In 2007, Overton was selected to participate in the first New England Dance Lab, a Regional Dance Development Initiative of the National Dance Project. Also in 2007, New England Presenters commissioned her and composer Paul Arslanian, with support from the New England Foundation for the Arts, to create a new touring project. Off the Beaten Path: A Jazz & Tap Odyssey was created in collaboration with Brenda Bufalino and Josh Hilberman and toured New England in 2008–2009.

Overton teaches master classes and residencies at schools, colleges and universities, studios and festivals throughout the U.S. She is the founder and director of of The Dance Hall in Kittery, ME.

"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 "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

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