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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards



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Nic Gareiss and Emily Doebler
2016 master artist and apprentice
Lansing (Ingham County) and Mount Pleasant (Isabella County)
Traditional percussive dance


Nic Gareiss is a dancer, musician, and dance researcher currently residing in Lansing, Michigan. From his early childhood, Nic has been involved with traditional music and dance through the Wheatland Music Organization, based in Remus, Michigan. It was there that he met Sheila Graziano (MTAAP Awardee 2013, 2014), who instructed him in his first Appalachian clogging workshop. Nic also credits 2016 Michigan Heritage Awardees and central Michigan residents the Costabella Cloggers as some of his first regular teachers. After this initial introduction to traditional dance forms, he continued to expand his knowledge and experience through participation in workshops, festivals, and camps, such as Dance Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Clifftop, Elkins, West Virginia. At age sixteen, he moved to Maryland to apprentice under Eileen Carson-Schatz, a National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellow, and to perform with her company, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. In his twenties, Nic lived in Ohio for the purpose of studying under Sharon Leahy and performing in her company, Rhythm in Shoes.

Nic then furthured his study of traditional music and dance in an academic setting, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology with a minor in music from Central Michigan University, and a Master of Arts of ethnochoreology (dance ethnology and ethnography) from the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland. During this time, he studied Cape Breton step dance with Mats Melin, Irish sean-nós dance with Seosamh Ó Neachtain, and Irish step dancing with Colin Dunne who was a former lead dancer in the internationally-acclaimed show Riverdance. Nic returned to Michigan and helped found the Earful of Fiddle Music and Dance Camp in Mecosta, Michigan. Now settled in Lansing, he continues to travel the country and the world performing, teaching, and collaborating with such artists as The Chieftans, Tim O'Brien, Bruce Molsky, This Is How We Fly, and Martin Hayes.

In this apprenticeship, Nic will share his knowledge and skill with Emily Doebler, a young dancer who has been working with him for eight years. Her early exposure to the traditional arts came through her performing arts school, Concord Academy Antrim in Mancelona, Michigan, and dance teacher Jeannine Sladick. She joined her school's dance performance group, Dance Attack!, which performed in locations throughout Michigan. One of these performances took place at Wheatland's Traditional Arts Weekend, which is where she met Nic. She is in her second year at Central Michigan University and during the school year, she teaches beginner and intermediate level clogging at the Academy of Performing Arts in Alma, Michigan. In the summer, Emily teaches at camps such as Algomatrad in Ontario and Earful of Fiddle. She is interested in rounding out her knowledge of percussive dance so that she can further preserve and teach this tradition.

-Micah Ling


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