The Cohort 2022: Stage – Program



  • Masks are required for audience members and staff at this event.
  • Prior to the show, please silence your devices, and be advised that taking photos or videos of the show is not permitted. 



We acknowledge that our work occurs on the traditional lands of the Dakota people, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations, including the Dakota, Ojibwe and other indigenous nations. We also acknowledge that as a company built around jazz and American social dances, forms with African diasporic roots and branches, anti-racism and intersectional justice efforts must also be central in our work. We view bettering these efforts as an ongoing journey, and welcome you to read more about this at our Anti-Racism page.



Welcome to Rhythmically Speaking presents The Cohort 2022: Stage, and thank you for joining us – we’re thrilled you’re here! This is our third installment of The Cohort, our reimagining of our anchor program: an annual Summer show that ran from 2009-2018 and presented the work of 7-9 primarily Minnesota-based choreographers each year, each working with their own casts. In 2019, we made a seismic shift in our model, introducing additional programming and reinventing this anchor show to feature a small cohort of vibrant local dancers performing the work of one local artist making a new work alongside me as RS Artistic and Executive Director, and two visiting artists, each resetting a piece of their repertoire.

The Cohort program has stretched us to fulfill our mission in innovative new ways, deepening artist engagement and improving their compensation while offering audiences fewer, more substantial works to experience. It continues our support of new work by local artists and provides opportunities for choreographers from outside Minnesota to share their work with a new community, while creating regular training and performance opportunities for local professional dancers who wish to invest in and inspire through jazz and American social dance ideas. This year, we are excited to have expanded this impact into the dance for camera space by introducing a screen component to the program in partnership with the Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema, which you can learn more about at our Cohort program page.

2022 should have marked our fourth Summer of this program: The Cohort 2020 became The Cohort 20/21, which was performed outdoors last May. While we are thrilled with how it went and hope to do more outdoor programming in the future, we are also very happy to return to our long-time Summer home, The Southern Theater. The last several years as a small but mighty arts company have been all about what I’ve deemed “surviving vibrantly.” I feel great gratitude for all who have interacted with our work during this time – particularly for our crew of dancers. They have rehearsed on Zoom, taken class outside, trudged through snow drifts to film a screendance . . . they have been game to do whatever has been needed to move our work forward safely, and they’ve done it with enthusiasm, kindness and joy.

We are thrilled to share with you this concert of vibrant live dance works inspired by jazz and American social dance ideas. We love working in these forms that share the elements of social interaction, improvisation and complex, groove-driven rhythmicity: sharing embodied rhythm through improvising – or creating art in the moment – and interaction with ourselves, one another and the music provides space to honor our differences while appreciating our similarities, a not only poignant, but crucial impact during these polarized time. At the heart of our work is falling whole-heartedly into rhythmic patterns, a shared human capability: the concept of rhythm is unique in its ability to connect us all with vibrancy, complexity and JOY. 

Thank you for being here together to share in the joy: I hope the works you experience tonight speak to you, rhythmically 🙂

JazzLove, Erinn



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To the Southern Theater for presenting us aain as a part of their Performance Partnership Program – this theater has been our Summer home for many years and we are thrilled to be back; Hannah Elias and Doug Hooker for serving on the choreographer selection panel, and to the RS Advisory Panel for event development and execution and their enthusiastic and ongoing support of our mission to spark vibrancy and connectedness through jazz and American social dance ideas! 



BASSline (2021)

  • Choreographer: Kathleen Doherty (Halifax, NS Canada)
  • Dancers: Sara Karimi, Erinn Liebhard, Kelli Miles, Javan Mngrezzo, Jake Nehrbass, Kathleen Pender and Betsy Schaefer-Roob (Rehearsal Assistant: Doug Hooker)
  • Music: “Branduardi” composed by Walter Lang & performed by Walter Lang Trio, “Can’t Stop Running” composed & performed by Adam Ben Ezra, “The Move” composed & performed by Matthew Halsall
  • Costumes: Kathleen Doherty, Rhythmically Speaking and Dancers
  • Note: BASSline is a jazz creation which takes inspiration from the prominent bass line within the music, with the sounds influencing the movement choices, rhythmic timing, and shapes in the dancers’ bodies. This work is exploring how we can relate to the music: when we can go right along with it, and when we can add rhythms with the body to create an even richer experience for both the performers, and the audience.
  • Special Thanks: Huge thanks and gratitude to all of the incredible RS dancers for their continued hard work and dedication to the process, especially to Erinn for all of her hard work, both in the studio and behind the scenes. Thanks to all of the dancers back in Nova Scotia who were a part of the initial processes and research for this piece: Lucy Boyne, Isabella Brennan, Béa Cameron Surette, Jane Elliott, Julia Keyes, Michele King, Jessica Lowe, Melissa Page-Webster, Carolin Mateus, Stephanie Mitro, and Brandon Skeete. 

An Opening (premiere)

  • Choreographer: Erinn Liebhard, with improvised and set contributions from the dancers
  • Dancers: Doug Hooker, Sara Karimi and Kathleen Pender
  • Music: “Not Right Now,” “You Could Have Stayed” and “Heartbeats” by Derrick Hodge
  • Costumes: Erinn Liebhard, Rhythmically Speaking and Dancers
  • Note: An Opening is a musing on the synergy of keeping it together and breaking apart. As the dancers weave their way, finding and creating space through, between and around one another and in the music, they explore what it can mean to lean on the self and others in times of crumbling down and building up.
  • Special Thanks: To the dancers for their jazz-improvisational prowess and dedication to this process, to Derrick Hodge for the inspiring music, and to my loves Kris and Niko for helping make it possible for me to love on them and dance!

Intermission (10 min)

Learn.Leave.Love. (premiere)

  • Choreographer: Rae Charles Harge and dancers
  • Dancers: Nieya Amezquita, Doug Hooker, Javan Mngrezzo, Jake Nehrbass and Betsy Schaefer-Roob
  • Music: “The Wake” by Robert Glasper, “Short and Sweet” by Brittany Howard, “Four on Six” by Wes Montgomery and “What a Wonderful World” by Jon Batiste
  • Costumes: Rae Charles Harge, Rhythmically Speaking and Dancers
  • Note: Learn.Leave.Love. is inspired by my journey building community and stepping into myself as an educator and researcher upon moving back to the Twin Cities. The dancers and I sought to explore themes of discovery–finding your path, your people, and yourself. I followed the rhythm and patterns to reflect on how what we learn informs our relationships, and what relationships have to teach us about the world in return.
  • Special Thanks: To my partner Nik, RS Artistic Director Erinn Liebhard, and my fellow RS dancers for your grace, talent, and faith. You’ve helped me re-discover and re-define my choreographic voice.

Character A/Musings (2021)

  • Choreographer: Laura Ann Smyth (Los Angeles, CA), in collaboration with the dancers
  • Dancers: Rae Charles Harge, Doug Hooker, Sara Karimi, Erinn Liebhard, Kelli Miles, Jake Nehrbass, Kathleen Pender and Betsy Schaefer-Roob
  • Music: “Muses for Richard Davis” by Eric Dolphy, and “St. Thomas” by Sonny Rollins, Tommy Flanagan, Doug Watkins and Max Roach
  • Note: Character A/Musings uses the jazz idiom to consider the way in which we invent and reinvent ourselves continuously through our lifetime. It is a study in becoming, evolving, trying out new identities and understanding that we are ever-shifting, always in-process. With a deep connection to jazz music, rhythm, storytelling and innovation, Character A/Musings allows the audience to consider how they might want to experiment with a new approach to life. 
  • Special Thanks: I would like to give a huge thanks to Erinn Liebhard and Rhythmically Speaking for welcoming me to choreograph for The Cohort 2022. Thank you to Loyola Marymount University for generously lending the costumes for this work. Finally, I’d like to thank my husband, Danny Kramer, for his unconditional support through all of my artistic endeavors.



Advisory Panel: Luther Bell, Janette Davis, Brian Evans, Erinn Liebhard, Kristoffer Olson and Zoe Sealy, and Legal Advisor: Reilly Liebhard

Nieya Amezquita (Dancer)


Nieya Amezquita is a Minnesota-based professional dancer working with Threads Dance Project, Rhythmically Speaking and Alexandra Bodnarchuk. She has also performed works with Concerto Dance, Yuki Tokuda and Off-Leash Area. In 2019, Nieya earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Georgia. There she had the opportunity to perform nationally and internationally with founding company CADE:NCE before studying in Portugal with the Addo Platform. Most recently, Nieya was a featured artist in the Blackness Is Arts festival produced by the Guthrie Theater and is currently a selected choreographer for Alternative Motion Project’s upcoming production.

Bill Cameron (Photographer)


Bill Cameron is a Minneapolis photographer who loves photographing people. He specializes in working with local dance companies and their wonderful dancers.

Rae Charles Harge (Local Choreographer | Dancer)


Rae is a local choreographer, scholar, and dance educator in the Twin Cities. Currently working on a PhD in Dance Education at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, she is dedicated to advocating for racial equity both on the stage and in the classroom. Charles Harge is a graduate of MSSPA/PiM, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the University of Michigan. She locates her own choreography at the intersection of jazz and modern and is greatly influenced by her work with artists and companies in New York as well as Minnesota including  Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Maria Bauman or Urban Bush Women, MBDance, Robert Battle, Camille A. Brown, Ron K. Brown, Karen L. Charles/Threads Dance Project, David Dorfman, Alonzo King, Rhythmically Speaking, Sydney Skybetter, and Kate Weare. Photo credit: Chelsea Rowe.

Kathleen Doherty (Visiting Choreographer – Halifax, NS Canada)


Kathleen Doherty (she/her) is a dancer, choreographer, improviser and educator based in K’jipuktuk/Halifax. After completing her Bachelor’s of Commerce degree at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Kathleen moved to Calgary to attend Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’ Professional Training Program. Upon returning to Halifax in 2012, Kathleen co-founded Votive Dance, and has worked as Artistic Director since the company’s inception. Kathleen enjoys sharing her passion for jazz dance as an instructor at The Maritime Conservatory, and Halifax Dance, and by hosting classes and workshops for the professional community. She will be creating a new full length jazz work with Votive Dance in 2022, and is so excited to work with the incredible like-minded jazz folks at Rhythmically Speaking. Kathleen is proud to be a working artist mom to her 3 year old son, Cillian. Photo credit: Movita Beaucoup Photography.

Doug Hooker (Dancer)

Doug graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Dance. He has had a variety of professional performing opportunities, including with the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps, the Broadway show Blast! and the Dancing People Company, and locally with ARENA DANCES, Threads Dance Project, Shapiro and Smith Dance and Collide Theatrical Dance Company.

Mike Grogan (Lighting Designer | Technical Director)

Mike has been designing lighting for dance, theater and music for more than twenty years. He started working on the technical side of theater while studying acting in the early 1990’s, and when he began designing lighting for dance productions, he realized he had found his career. In the years since he has had the privilege of designing for numerous groups spanning the disciplines of dance, theater and music. He has been privileged to work with many great artists during the course of his career, and notes “if my work looks good it is only because their work is good.” We’re lucky to have him on board again!

Sara Karimi (Dancer)

A native of Wisconsin and a graduate of University of Iowa (BFA in Dance Performance, BA in English), Sara has danced and toured nationally and internationally with Kayle & Co., 10,000 Feet Dance Company, The Architects and Threads Dance Project, among others. Upon relocating to the Twin Cities seven years ago, she has worked with regional and local choreographers; and is in her sixth season with Threads Dance Project and her seventh season with Borealis Dance. Sara is also a 400 hour certified yoga instructor and has taught workshops and classes in Colorado, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Erinn Liebhard (RS Artistic and Executive Director | Producer | Choreographer | Dancer)

Erinn is a dance artist (MFA University of Colorado Boulder, BFA University of Minnesota) making opportunities for people to experience the reflective and connective power of groove through performance and education. In performance (besides RS!), she’s a member of Afro-Brazilian company Contempo Physical Dance and performs as entertainer “Nerdette” for Saint Paul Saints Baseball. In education, she is an active residency artist, a Teaching Artist for the Cowles Center, and is on faculty for St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, Winona State University, and Zenon Dance School.

Ben McGinley (Videographer)

Kelli Miles (Dancer)

Kelli is a Minneapolis-based dancer, choreographer, teacher and arts manager. She graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in the Spring of 2018 with a BFA in Dance and a minor in Leadership. Throughout her training, she has spent time dancing in New York City, San Francisco, Nashville and Israel. She has had the honor of performing works by Ohad Naharin, Banning Bouldin, Gina Patterson and Angharad Davies. Kelli is constantly inspired by way in which this movement form sparks conversation, invokes visceral reactions and creates community.

Javan Mngrezzo (Dancer)

Javan Mngrezzo (he/him) relocated to Minnesota in 2021 by way of Portland, OR. He graduated from Western Oregon University in three years, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Science in Dance and Sociology. At present, he dances with Rhythmically Speaking, Black Label Movement, and Collide Theatrical. He has previously been a company dancer with Threads Dance Project and BodyVox. He has also had the privilege of performing as a guest artist for numerous companies such as Analog Dance Works, ARENA Dances, Ballet Co.Laboratory, Heidi Duckler Dance, Cynthia Gutierrez’s Company Movimiento, and Dar Vejon Jones Dance Ensemble. Javan is a certified instructor of The Ellové Technique®, has taught at dozens of Oregon studios as well as local studios. He is super jazzed about dancing within the Rhythmically Speaking Cohort!

Jake Nehrbass (Dancer)

Born and raised in Minnesota, Jake is a teacher and performing artist in the Twin Cities. Having tap danced since the age of three, and being trained in ballroom dance, modern dance, as well as having an interest in physical therapy, Jake graduated from St. Olaf College with degrees in Dance and Exercise Science. Along side being a member of Rhytmically Speaking, Jake has danced with Threads Dance Project, Flying Foot Forum, Katha Dance Theatre, Eau Claire Dance, Stephan Koplowitz’s Northfield Experience, and has danced in Au, a Live at the Shed work with Hatch Dance and Honey Works. Jake also teaches tap dance at Praire School of Dance as well as Ballare Teatro Performing Arts Center.

Kathleen Pender (Dancer)

Kathleen Pender is a performer, dance educator, and arts administrator with a B.A. in Dance from St. Olaf College. She teaches for Young Dance, where she also works as Program Manager. She has performed in works by local choreographers Erinn Liebhard, Suzanne Costello, Gretchen Pick, Julie Warder, Taja Will, and Pat Taylor/JazzAntiqua (LA), among others. She has performed in several Rhythmically Speaking productions since 2013 and has been a member of the Rhythmically Speaking Cohort since 2019. She is graduating this Summer with an Assosiates of Applied Science in Massage Therapy from Northwestern Health Sciences University. Kathleen is passionate about community and relationships cultivated through movement exploration, education, and performance. Photo by Bill Cameron.

Sarah Salisbury (Stage Manager)


Sarah is a freelance production and stage manager around the Twin Cities. She has worked for many dance organizations, as well as the Southern Theater. Currently, Sarah is trying out her skills in the new arena of veterinary medicine and works overnights at an animal emergency room, while she reassess her career goals. Her and Erinn have been besties for a really freakin’ long time.

Betsy Schaefer Roob (Dancer)

Betsy was born and raised in Elm Grove, WI. Now based in Minneapolis for over a decade, she has worked with ARENA DANCES, Rhythmically Speaking, Threads Dance Project, Dance & Other Behaviors, as well as nationally and internationally based choreographers Sasha Kleinplatz, A.T. Moffett, Salia Sanou, and Pat Taylor among others. Her own work with faux pas, a duo with Julie Marie Muskat, has been presented as part of CANDY BOX Dance Festival at the Southern Theater. Prior to landing in Minnesota, Betsy lived and studied in Michigan, Oregon, and El Salvador. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a self-designed Bachelor of Individualized Studies in English, Dance, and Sustainability Studies. Alongside her dance career, she is a certified practitioner of The Roll Model® Method and manages the Children’s Literacy Program for Hennepin Healthcare System. She also enjoys many moments dancing around her living room with her toddler daughter.

Laura Ann Smyth (Visiting Choreographer – Los Angeles, California)

Laura (Tiffanie Marie)

Laura Ann Smyth, originally from Canada, is a Los Angeles-based dancer, choreographer and educator. Smyth holds a BA in sociology with a minor in dance from the University of Calgary, a MFA in dance from the University of California, Irvine and is currently a PhD Candidate in dance at Texas Woman’s University. Her scholarship focuses on the intersection of Black jazz-informed dance practices and embodied rhetoric. Smyth is a member of Donna Sternberg and Dancers, JazzAntiqua Dance and Music Ensemble and is a full-time faculty member at Loyola Marymount University. Spirited and inclusive in her approach to the dissemination of Black dance culture and practices, Smyth is grateful and humbled by any opportunity to engage in the gift that is dance. Photo Credit: Tiffanie Marie.





This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

We also couldn’t spread JOY through JAZZ without the generous support of our FY22 individual donors listed below (up to date as of 8/5/22):

Mica A
Bruce Abas
Danielle Alfano
Tina Anderson
Ian Anderson and Kelly Paul and Family
Jesse and Jason Anschutz and Family
Sarah and Ben Batz
Mackenzie Beck-Esmay and Gabe Ng
Sarra and Candice Beckham-Chasnoff
MaryAnn Bell
Luther and Jillian Bell
Benjamin Borgert
Sarah Ann Brennecke
Emily Broeker
Donna Bronk
Doug and Sheri Brunner
Bill and Connie Cameron
Tim Campbell
Jan and Steve Campbell
Lisa Cascun
Karen Charles
Fred Cheng
Joe Chvala
Clair Daley
Rober tDeBoer
Patsy Dew
Regina Dolan
Nina Ebbighausen
Hannah Maria Elias
Kristine Elias
Matt Eller and Amelia Brandt
Brian Evans and Family
Mickey Farmer
Corey Fischer and Diana Evans
Sharon Frank
Ellie Fregni
Karyl Frye and Marilee Anderson
Quinn Gaalswyk
Terri Garrison
Karla Grotting
Melissa Harkavy
Adam and Kristen Hayes and Family
Amanda Hemmesch
Jessica Henry and Family
Lindsay and Nic Hodnefield and Family
Laura Holway
Cindy Hooker
Ayumi Hori-Shafer and Family
Kristin Howe and Family
Marian Hyun
Gemma Isaacson
Leah and Aaron Janz and Family
Molly E Johnston and Family
Jenny and Matt Jungwirth and Family
Ochen Kaylan
Ellen Keane
Matthew Keefe
Heather Klopchin
Rachel Koep
Katherine Kramer
David Kranz
Katherine Kupiecki
Reilly Liebhard
Joy and Wayne Liebhard
Theresa Luther-Dolan
Jordan Lynn
Kimberly McAndrews
Caryn Miles
Elizabeth and Corey Mills
Robin Moede
Catlin Murphy
Andrea Myers
David and Kathy Olson
Erinn Liebhard and Kris Olson
Nikki Otten
Carol Ottoson
Warren Park
Kym Longhi and Jim Peitzman
Kathleen Pender
Mandy and Darren Pfeffer and Family
Sharon Picasso
Rosa Prigan
Mollie Putzig
Sarah and Phil Rickert and Family
Danielle Robinson-Prater
Sarah Salisbury
Peggy Sannerud
Sheryl Saterstrom
Chris Schmidt
David Schneider
Krista Schnelle
Molly Stoltz and Family
Sydney Swanson
Joseph Vogel
Dave Wallraff
Mary Wallraff
Heather Westerlund and Family
Cathy Wind



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Thank you for joining us!