Michigan-born dancer, musician, and dance researcher Nic Gareiss has studied a broad variety of percussive movement forms from around the world. At the age of eight he began taking tap dance lessons with Sam and Lisa Williams at Vision Studio of Performing Arts in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Soon after, he was exposed to fiddle music and other percussive dance forms at the Wheatland Music Organization’s annual Traditional Arts Weekend. It was there that he had his first instruction in Appalachian clogging with Michigan dance mentor, Sheila Graziano. As a teenager, Nic also studied Irish step dance with John Heinzman, T.C.R.G., Appalachian flat-footing with Ira Bernstein, Québécois step dance with Benoit Bourque, and improvisation and composition with Sandy Silva.
In 2001, Nic began an educational relationship with the internationally-renowned company, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. After meeting Footworks’ director, NEA Choreography Fellow Eileen Carson at the Augusta Heritage Center dance camp, Nic was invited to spend nine weeks apprenticing with the company in Annapolis, Maryland. While working with Footworks, Gareiss danced in their evening-length theater show, Incredible Feets as well as two new collaborative works: SoleMates, with StepAfrika and The Crossing, with Grammy-winning recording artist Tim O’Brien.
In 2007, Nic spent a year studying at the Irish World Academy at the University of Limerick, Ireland. There he studied Cape Breton step dance with Mats Melin as well as Irish dance and choreography with Orfhlaith Ni Bhriain, T.C.R.G, A.D.C.R.G. He also studied with contemporary Irish dancer Colin Dunne and sean-nós dancer Seosamh Ó Néachtain.
Nic has performed with many of the luminaries of traditional music and dance, including The Chieftains, The Gloaming, Dervish, Gráda, Beoga, Téada, FIDIL, Le Vent du Nord, Genticorum, Dr. Anthony Barrand, Rhythm in Shoes, Buille, Liz Carroll, Frankie Gavin, Martin Hayes, Bruce Molsky, Darol Anger, Bill Frisell and Alasdair Fraser. His dancing has been seen on CMT in Uncle Earl’s music video Streak O’ Lean, Steak O’ Fat and also on Ireland’s RTÉ 2 in the film Unsung, commissioned by the Irish Arts Council, which premiered during the 2008 Dublin Dance Festival. He has performed for the Irish head of state, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and American Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He collaborates regularly with Cleek Schrey, Maeve Gilchrist, Simon Chrisman, Allison de Groot, Brittany Haas, Jordan Tice, and as a member of the quartet This is How we Fly. Gareiss has concertized in fourteen countries and continues to tour and teach internationally, working with dance communities and making solo percussive dance performances.
In 2011, Nic received a commission from the Cork Opera House to create two new solo percussive dance works for Reich’s pieces Six Marimbas and Clapping Music in honor of the composer’s 75thbirthday. The pieces were hailed by the Irish Times as “a leftfield tour-de-force with irresistible wow factor.” In 2013, Gareiss served as community liaison for the Wheatland Music Organization’s 40th Anniversary production Carry it on…, supervising a cast of 70 dancers from rural communities across the state of Michigan. Gareiss received a Traditional Arts Commission from the Irish Arts Council to create an evening-length fiddle and dance duo show with Caoimhín Ó Raghalliah. The resulting piece, Mice Will Play had a sell-out run at the Project Arts Centre during the 2013 Dublin Fringe Festival. In 2015, Nic was recognized by Michigan State Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program as a master traditional artist.
Nic has taught workshops in percussive dance technique and improvisation internationally including at Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp in northern California, as well as for Scottish Culture & Traditions Organization, The University of Limerick, Michigan State University, Beloit College, Wesleyan University, Princeton University, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in Derry, Northern Ireland. Through workshops for both dancers and musicians, Nic seeks to remind students of the crucial, intrinsic, and historic place that percussive dance has held in the formation and development of many world music traditions as well as encourage dancers with the innately sonic capabilities of movement.
Nic holds degrees in Anthropology and Music from Central Michigan University. In 2011, he earned a distinction from the Norwegian University for Science and Technology’s IPEDAM Erasmus Intensive for Ethnochoreologists. Nic completed post-graduate studies in 2012, earning a MA in Ethnochoreology from the University of Limerick. His thesis based upon ethnographic work with LGTBQ competitive step dancers was the first piece of scholarship to query the experience of sexual minorities within Irish dance. Gareiss’ essay, “An Buachaillín Bán: Reflections on One Queer’s Performance within Traditional Irish Music & Dance” appears in the book Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings edited by Clare Croft on Oxford University Press. His present research seeks to illuminate discursive formations of national identity, gender and sexual orientation via ethnography and embodied practice.