Rhythmically Speaking 2017 marks the ninth installment of our annual production featuring the work of local and national choreographers making jazz and American vernacular dance. This year’s production, exploring how rhythm and groove serve as means to both escape and connect, will feature the work of:

(Photo by Bill Cameron)

Karla Grotting
O’Calla Joslyn
Kaleena Miller
Laura Osterhaus
Jeffrey Peterson (MN-bred, PA-based)
Abigail Whitmore

RS Artistic Director Erinn Liebhard will also be presenting a piece in the show. Choreographer bios available below.

WHERE: the Illusion Theater in downtown Minneapolis, MN

WHEN: August 17-19 @ 7:30pm and August 19th @ 2pm

TICKETS: Available for advanced online purchase or at the door each night of the production (reserved seating). If you wish to support the show beyond the price of a ticket and to contribute directly to the creation process of the 2017 artists, visit our DONATE & SUPPORT page!

TRANSPORTATION: As you may know, it can be a challenge to arrive and park in downtown Minneapolis: we strongly encourage you to leave plenty of time for both. Public transit is an excellent option (the light rail and many bus lines drop off right next to the building)! If you plan to drive, note that there are evening Twins games on August 18th and 19th, which will complicate lot parking (meters are limited to two hours, so it is often possible to find one during games). The Illusion Theater has a parking deal with the City Center ramp, offering $6 Monday-Thursday and $12 Friday-Sunday parking, even during sporting events! This deal is accessible by pre-paying at this site and printing out the provided barcode, which is scanned on the way out of the ramp.

BEFORE + AFTER: If you’d like to make an evening out of it, Gluek’s and Kieran’s are close, local standbys: enjoy a full dinner before the show or catch a drink after. The Illusion Theater also offers great concessions including wine and beer both before and after the show.


Karla Grotting | is a dancer, choreographer, educator, and producer working with a unique blend of jazz, tap, modern, and percussive dance techniques. She is founding member, principal dancer, and artistic associate with Joe Chvala’s The Flying Foot Forum, and has performed with companies such as Jazzdance: by Danny Buraczeski, MN Jazz Dance Co,  Keane Sense of Rhythm, Off-Leash Area, and Combustible Company. Karla has been on faculty with the University of Minnesota Department of Theater and Dance since 1998, and a guest artist and instructor at St Olaf College since 2014. She has created dance works for Gustavus Adolphus College, St Olaf College, UW-Whitewater, Macalester College, Eclectic Edge Ensemble and others. Karla was named as one of City Pages’ Artists of the Year for 2015. Her project, Lost Voices in Jazz: The Choreographers of the Minnesota Jazz Dance Company was recognized with the Sage Award for Outstanding Performance in 2015.

O’Calla Joslyn | In her younger years, O’Calla took jazz and tap at the local dance studio, and co-founded Revolution Youth Theater as a teenager, performing and choreographing in shows the group toured in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The organization won the Minnesota Peace Prize in 2000 for work done in the community. College at the University of Minnesota brought more dance opportunities, during and after which she performed and choreographed for events throughout the community. Favorites include Moulin Rouge New Years Eve and Prince Night at First Avenue. Since college, she’s danced for April Sellers Dance Collective and Erinn Liebhard, and choreographed and performed for Enticing Entertainment. This is O’Calla’s first year presenting work in Rhythmically Speaking.

Erinn Liebhard | (MFA University of Colorado Boulder, BFA University of Minnesota) is a dance artist that makes opportunities for people to experience the connective and reflective power of groove. She is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Rhythmically Speaking, is currently on faculty at Winona State University and is a Teaching Artist for the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, and her scholarly work has been featured in publications including Journal of Dance Education. Her choreography has been presented across the U.S. and Canada, and she has performed for creatives as varied as hip-hop dance theater artist Rennie Harris, contemporary performance company Off-Leash Area and the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers Appalachian clogging company. She is currently a company member of Contempo Physical Dance and enjoys flexing her physical comedy musclesplaying “Nerdette” for Saint Paul Saints Baseball’s Entertainment Team.

Kaleena Miller | is a founding member of Rhythmic Circus, Co-Director of the Twin Cities Tap Festival, and host of the Cutting Board. She is also a 2015 McKnight Dance Fellow and was recently named one of DANCE Magazine’s “25 to Watch”. She is also director/ lead choreographer for Kaleena Miller Dance, a tap dance group devoted to the historical preservation as well as the creative advancement of American Tap Dance.

Laura Osterhaus | is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota—Twin Cites, receiving her B.A. in dance and retail merchandising/fashion studies. During her time at the U of M, Laura had the opportunity to perform the work of modern/contemporary dance choreographers Uri Sands, Nora Chipaumire, Gregory Dolbashian, Maurya Kerr, Scott Rink, the Martha Graham Dance Company, Garth Fagan, Gerald Casel, Wynn Fricke, Joanie Smith, and Erin Thompson. She is currently digging deeper into performance through an apprenticeship with Zenon Dance Company, performing the work of Danny Buraczeski this past fall. Laura is also a co-founder and co-director of Kelvin Wailey, an emerging dance group that dabbles in developing performance in obscure places. She is excited and eager for this opportunity to further her own work!

Jeffrey Peterson | holds a BFA in dance from the University of Minnesota, an MFA in dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a Certification in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis (LMA) from Integrated Movement Studies. Professional credits include JAZZDANCE! By Danny Buraczeski, ARENA dances by Mathew Janczewski, Clare Byrne, Edisa Weeks, the Minnesota Opera, as well as the Madison Scouts and Govenaires Drum and Bugle Corps, to name a few. Called “moving and heart racingly joyous” by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and “poetic precision” by the Minneapolis StarTribune, Peterson’s choreography has been seen at venues including Dance New Amsterdam, Dixon Place, Judson Memorial Church, The Minnesota Fringe Festival, The Bryant Lake Bowl, Intermedia Arts, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. He has staged choreography on student dance companies at Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, St. Mary’s University – Winona, the Perpich Center for Arts Education, Old Dominion University, University of Vermont and Bucknell University. His scholarly work, focusing on contextualizing and supporting Jazz dance through applied research on the African diaspora and somatics, has been presented through the National Dance Education Organization and Bill Evans’ Somatics Conferences. Originally from Minnesota, Peterson teaches modern, jazz, partnering, composition, and LMA as an Assistant Professor of Dance at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This is his third time presenting his work as part of Rhythmically Speaking.

Abigail Whitmore | is a dancer, pilates instructor, and choreographer in the Twin Cities. The month of May brings graduation from the University of Minnesota Dance Program where she has worked with numerous guest artists including Justin Jones, Martha Graham Dance Company, Gerald Casel, Joanie Smith, Luciana Achugar, Michel Kouakou, and Angharad Davies. She represented the University at the American College Dance Association in 2015, presenting research on “The Changing Context of Contemporary Dance” and again in 2016, performing work by Leila Awadallah at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.. Abigail has been involved in the local dance community and performed an improvised solo at Future Interstates as well as adapted an existing solo for a grove of trees at Laurie Van Wieren’s Field Work. Last summer she co-presented a performance at Glam Doll Donuts with Annika Hansen. She is grateful for the opportunity to present at Rhythmically Speaking!


Mike Grogan (Lighting Designer) | has been active in the Twin Cities arts scene since 1990. In that time he has designed for numerous dance companies including James Sewell Ballet, Zorongo Flamenco, Contempo Physical Dance and Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum. Mike was a 2012 and 2014 SAGE Dance Award recipient for outstanding design. Mike is currently a Freelance Lighting Designer in the Twin Cities area.

Sarah Salisbury (Stage Manager) | is thrilled to be back with RS. When not stage managing for Erinn and the other incredible choreographers, Sarah stage manages for Eclectic Edge Ensemble, and Alternative Motion Project. She is also a co-founder of The Haunted Basement, as well as a props designer for various theater companies in town, as well as a technician at Intermedia Arts and Bryant Lake Bowl. Around all of that, Sarah is also the Production Manager of Illusion Theater.


Gabriel Anderson | (MFA, MPH, CYT) is a dance artist and performer. He was awarded the Iowa Arts Fellowship to attend the University of Iowa to complete his Masters of Fine Arts in Dance (Choreography), and has performed–and continues to perform–in the works of many artists locally and nationally. Gabriel has been the Director of the Dance Program at the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists since 2015. Prior to this appointment, Gabriel taught in affiliate and visiting faculty positions in regional college/University dance programs.

Leila Awadallah | is a Palestinian-American dance artist and creator, currently embodying her Mediterranean roots in Minnesota/ originally from South Dakota. She is in her 5th year as a company member of Ananya Dance Theatre. Leila is a 2016 SAGE Award recipient, and her work has been presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. as well as in the BIPOD festival in Beirut, Lebanon. Always hungry for more movement, Leila is excited to be performing Karla’s work for the third time in Rhythmically Speaking!

Alexandra Bodnarchuk | is a Minneapolis based artist who hails from Pittsburgh, PA. In 2012 she graduated from Ohio University with a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography, where she danced with Azaguno African Dance Ensemble. Her work has been presented in multiple venues throughout Minneapolis, Pittsburgh (PA), and New York City, as well as Durham (NC), Athens (OH) and Columbus (OH), supported by Zenon Dance Company and School, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, and Mary Lipple Memorial Fund. In addition to creating her own work Alexandra has worked with STAYCEE PEARL dance project, Attack Theatre, Bricolage Production Company, and movement theater artist Mark Conway Thompson, with whom she originated the role of Predator in his 2016 work, Kimono. Alexandra currently works with Black Label Movement (BLM) as an Administrative Assistant where she most recently assisted BLM’s Artistic Director, Carl Flink, on his new work for James Sewell Ballet’s Ballet Works Project (March 2017).

Jacob John Borg | teaches, competes, and performs ballroom dance. He began dancing in Malta at the age of five where his first styles were ballroom and Latin dance; at the age of thirteen he was introduced to ballet by the accomplished dancer Stefano di Filippo. Jacob won several dance competitions in Malta and was granted a title for Malta’s national champion in Latin dancing. A recent graduate from St. Olaf College, Jacob earned not only his bachelor’s degree in dance, but also graduated with distinction. While at St. Olaf College, he performed works by Jill Patterson, Laura Selle-Virtucio, Heather Klopchin, and Marciano Silva Dos Santos.

Leanna Browne | holds a B.A. in Psychology and Dance & Black Studies from Swarthmore College. During her time at Swarthmore, she was fortunate to work with different choreographers such as Idan Porges and Hadar Katz. In addition, Leanna was active in Rhythm ‘n’ Motion (RnM), the Tri-College student dance company rooted in the styles of the African Diaspora. As an emerging professional artist, she is delving deeper into performance through Zenon Dance Zone and recently performed in Legacy: A Tribute to Baba Chuck Davis. In 2017, Leanna received her M’Singha Wuti-level certification in Umfundalai, a contemporary African dance technique, which enables her to share Umfundalai with recreational dance communities, and she is excited to continue growing in her artistic practice through Rhythmically Speaking!

Emilia Bruno | grew up dancing in Lake Zurich, IL. She is currently studying Dance and Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is seeking graduation in May 2018. Emilia has performed in works by Gregory Dolbashian, Maurya Kerr, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Wynn Fricke, Brian Brooks, Marcus Jarrell Willis, luciana achugar, and U of M faculty Erin Thompson, Joanie Smith, and Michel Kouakou. She is very excited to perform Tea, Tang, and Honey by Abigail Whitmore and eager for what is to come of her future as a dance artist.

Jessica Chad | started dancing when she was four. She has trained in a variety of styles including ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop. She currently teaches hip hop at Midwest Youth Dance Theater, and performs and choreographs for Erin Sheppard Presents. You can see her this fall in “After the Party,” part of the Twin Cities Horror Festival.

Rahila Coats | is entering her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota in the BFA dance program. As a honors dance graduate from the Performing Institute of Minnesota, she has trained at multiple institutions in the Twin Cities such as TU Dance, Penumbra Theatre Company, Zenon Dance Company and Saint Paul Ballet. Following her 2016 graduation, she joined Threads Dance Company in their touring to Atlanta, Georgia. Aside from being a dance instructor at Saint Paul Ballet, she has begun a new position with the Guthrie Theater’s Advisory Network.

Annika Hansen | is a Minnesotan, a dancer-maker-thinker, an ecstatic aunt, a lover of books and plants and tiny things. This May, she graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota. In the dance program, she was fortunate to perform works by Justin Jones, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Marcus Jarrell Willis, luciana Achugar, Brian Brooks, Michel Kouakou, and Joanie Smith. She also completed a year at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem, Israel, where she performed works by Ohad Naharin, Amir Kolben, Dana Rottenberg, and Noa Zuk. As for her own choreography, she has presented locally at 9×22, Future Interstates, and Zenon Dance Zone as well as with collaborator Abigail Whitmore at Glam Doll Donuts and the University Rec Center pool.

Libby Herrmann | is a curious person. She keeps herself busy with her studies at the University of Minnesota, where she studies Dance and Spanish. She also fancies knitting, sugar, and laughing.

Ali Higginbotham |, a proud Minnesota native, is currently pursing her undergraduate degree in Dance at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. In 2014, she graduated from the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists where her love for local dance was birthed. She has been fortunate to train under artists such as Erin Thompson, Carl Flink, Dustin Haug, Joanie Smith, Karla Grotting, Kenna-Camara Cottman, and Angharad Davies. She has performed professionally with ARENA Dances, MNperform Dance, Altered Odyssey at the Phoenix Theater, Agape Dance Collective and Rhythmically Speaking. Ali is passionate about choreography and her faith, her newest endeavor is spearheading a Christian dance group, Agape Dance Collective (agapedancecollective.weebly.com).

Doug Hooker | graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Dance. He is very thankful to have had a wide variety of professional performing opportunities, such as dancing with the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps in Santa Clara, California, and touring with the Broadway show Blast!, both nationally and internationally, including Japan and the 2012 World Expo in South Korea. Before moving to the Twin Cities, Doug performed full time with Dancing People Company in Ashland, Oregon under the direction of Robin Stiehm. Local dance projects have included ARENA DANCES, Threads Dance Project, and Paula Mann.

Rachel Horner | is a 2015 graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in dance. She began dancing at the Waconia Performing Arts Center in her hometown of Waconia, MN. She spent a gap year in California dancing professionally with Imagine Ballet Company. Throughout college she performed in work by Carl Flink, Shapiro and Smith, Nora Chipaumera, HIJACK, Emily Johnson Catalyst, and Jolene Konkel. She is a company member with Eclectic Edge Ensemble and also teaches dance at numerous studios, travels as often as possible and drinks a voracious amount of coffee!

Erik Hunder | recently received his BA in Dance from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. There, he trained in many different dance styles and worked with locally, nationally, and internationally renowned teachers and choreographers. Erik served as the artistic director of MinnesoTap, a student-run tap ensemble, for two years. He has performed locally with the U of M’s University Dance Theatre, Philly Productions LLC (“Philly” the musical), Artistry Theatre (“Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”), MinnesoTap, JDCo., and in various independent dance projects (music videos, commercials, a performance in a donut shop, etc.). Additionally, Erik teaches tap dance at Yackel Dance Studio, works as a character performer at Nickelodeon Universe, and is an apprentice with COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company.

Courtney Hunsberger | is from Allentown, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Dance and Mathematics as well as a secondary education certification. She currently teaches eighth grade mathematics at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School. During her college years, she performed “D-Man in the Waters” by Bill T. Jones (restaged by Germaul Barnes), in addition to works by Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Jeffrey Peterson, and Teresa VanDenend Sorge. She has choreographed various pieces, including “Penrose Stairs” which was selected for the Gala Concert at the Mid-Atlantic North American College Dance Festival in 2015. As a politically-aware, adolescent-advocating, and outdoor-adventure seeking individual, Courtney is constantly finding ways to use dance as a barrier-breaking common language with people and all aspects of life.

Amy Jones | has performed in Minneapolis and New York and holds degrees in Theatre/Dance and Management from Luther College. Her dance credits include AMP, Still Life by Morgan Thorson, St. Paul City Ballet’s contemporary show, Opera at Bard Summerscape, an American Standard billboard in Times Square, and The Mystic Dancers. Amy would like to dedicate this performance to the late Renee Anker, who inspired her love of jazz dance at a young age.

Emma Marlar |, originally from Kenosha, WI, graduated with a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2016. Recently she apprenticed with Shapiro and Smith and performed work by Maggie Bergeron, Uri Sands, Luke Olson-Elm, Maurya Kerr, and Nora Chipaumire, among others. Emma also pursues creating her own work, as well as being Production Manager for Ananya Dance Theatre. Emma is so excited and grateful to be dancing in Karla’s work again, feeling the groove, groundedness, and joy of dancing jazz!

Gabriel Mata | is an independent choreographer, educator, performer; Gabriel Mata/Movements is his solo-based project that works to expose the truths hidden behind the facade of choreography. His dances have been performed in California, Minnesota, and New York. He received his B.F.A. from San José State University where he trained in Limón technique from Gary Masters. He performs for Zenon Dance Company in Minneapolis and has performed for Wynn Fricke, Keith Johnson, Joel Smith, Diane Frank, and Gary Masters. He has received awards in performance and choreography.

Liam McLaughlin | live. laugh. love. liam.

Brenda Nepsund | graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with bachelor’s degrees in both Dance and Mass Media. Brenda performed in the Gala at America’s College Dance Festival (North Central) 2014 in War Story by Dr. Julie Kerr-Berry. Brenda has performed in other works by Daniel Stark, Suzanne Costello, Susana Di Palma, Karis Sloss, Danielle Ricci, Sophia Pimsler, and Jolene Konkel. Brenda is an instructor at Touch of Grace in Hutchinson, MN. She is grateful for the opportunity to perform in Rhythmically Speaking this year!

Callie Rosenbaum | is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. While training at the U of MN she performed in works by choreographers Brian Brooks and Justin Jones. She teaches dance at Platinum Dance Center in Edina and is thrilled to be working with various artists in this year’s Rhythmically Speaking.”

Laura Selle Virtucio | and Jeffrey Peterson became fast friends while pursuing their BFA degrees in Dance at the University of Minnesota in 1995. Laura is a 15-year member of Shapiro & Smith Dance, where she serves as their Artistic Associate and Rehearsal Director, as well as restages the company’s repertory. She currently dances for Chris Schlichting, teaches at the St. Paul Conservatory for the Arts and occasionally choreographs her own blend of modern and jazz dance. In years past, Laura performed with Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater, Zenon Dance Company, and Black Label Movement. In 2007, Laura received a McKnight Fellowship for Dancers and a Sage Award for Best Performer.

Molly Kay Stoltz | graduated in 2009 with her UMN Dance BFA, and has since pursued rhythmic dance performance with Jump Rhythm Jazz, Chicago Tap Theater, Flying Foot Forum, Karla Grotting, Cynthia Guttierez-Garner, and Zorongo Flamenco. She is passionate about live music & dance collaborations particularily as a tap and jazz dancer focused on working with musicians and now expanding this as a student of flamenco dance. She is pursuing her Therapeutic Recreation certification, and when not performing or working spends time with her new hubby and two kitties.

John Surber | graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a B.A. in Dance in May of 2017. In his short time at Gustavus he had the pleasure of performing in multiple mainstage pieces as part of the Gustavus Dance Company. Along with that he was granted the opportunity of showing his work “Reflection Overdrive” at the 2017 North-Central ACDA conference. John currently is working with the Christopher Watson Dance Company and exploring the Minneapolis dance community. He is thankful for the chance to perform in Rhythmically Speaking 2017.

Crissy Tolson | holds a degree in dance from George Mason University and has been grooving with Erinn Liebhard for about a year now! She is also founding company member of Borealis Dance and just produced a show in the Minnesota Fringe festival! This is her second time performing in Rhymically Speaking.

Sophie Walker | grew up dancing in Minnesota, where she trained at competitive studios for 13 years. In high school, she studied dance at Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. She is currently expanding her knowledge of dance at the University of Minnesota as she is finishing up her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. Through the University she has had the opportunity to work with Martha Graham dance company, Justin Jones, Luke Olson-Elm, Angharad Davies and luciana achugar.

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