Dance ’19, the final dance concert for Northern Kentucky University’s School of the Arts, mixes a variety of dance styles with works by guest artists to create a one-of-a-kind show.

You don’t need to travel far to see exciting shows and insightful theater—Northern Kentucky University’s School of the Arts provides just that right here in Northern Kentucky.

This spring, the school presents two of its most exciting events—the Y.E.S. Festival (in which the school world premieres three plays) and Dance ’19 (a year-end showcase that displays the variety of talent in NKU’s growing dance department).

According to Michael Hatton, theatre and dance program head for NKU’s School of the Arts, these programs are an opportunity for the students to share what they have learned throughout the year with the community. “We want to make sure that they’re well prepared to be successful for the long term and that we want to teach them how to create art that is meaningful and sustainable and impactful. You can’t study theater inside a bubble, inside a vacuum. You’ve got to learn about the people that you’re creating theater with and for,” he says.

Y.E.S Festival
The Y.E.S. Festival, which stands for Year End Series, is entering its 19th year at NKU. Held every two years, it’s the longest-running undergraduate new play festival in the country, says Hatton.

Each festival, the students perform two or three new plays.

“What that means for our students … is that they have an opportunity … to get to work with living playwrights—we bring in the playwrights, they’re in residence—and that’s such a rare opportunity. Normally you’re working on playwrights you don’t have access to or playwrights that have passed away. So getting to hear the voice of the playwright, getting to interact with them, getting to learn about how and why they’ve created this story and the characters and getting to have that kind of feedback—a relationship that we find is very special—it’s very unique and very impactful,” he says.

In addition, Hatton says, “It helps our students to really respect the craft of playwriting and understand the role that they have in creating and bringing these characters to life for the very first time.”

Each festival, about 300 new plays from throughout the world are submitted for inclusion. After being thoroughly vetted by the faculty, the best plays are chosen.

“We … cull down all of those submissions to find the ones that resonate, the ones that are obviously the best written, and also, too, we are an undergraduate program, so we are looking for plays that can be produced within our program,” says Hatton. “We also want to find plays that hopefully push, stretch and entertain patrons because we want them to get some added benefit from it as well, too.”

This year the festival will be held April 3-14 and features three plays—Fast Young Beautiful by Ethan Warren focuses on a young actor in 1955 who gets the opportunity to act with James Dean, Initiative by Jacob York tells the story of a group of friends playing a board game as one dies of cancer and The Black Boy in Pink by NKU playwriting major Isaiah Reaves is set in Cincinnati in 1959 as a young black man begins to dream of a different life.

According to Corrie Danieley, associate professor and co-coordinator of the festival, the three plays have something in common.

“They have a nice sense of intimacy,” she says. “Isaiah is a good example. It’s a fictional story that he developed that he’s had similar experiences in his own life, and then with the James Dean show, that’s interesting, too, because it is a deep look into what it means to be an actor, what it means to empathize as you step into a character and all of that. And the third one, a man’s facing cancer. For me personally that’s what I’m drawn to in these scripts.”

Each play will be shown multiple times throughout the festival. Visit to see dates and times. Tickets can also be purchased online—$15 for a non-student. “[People] can actually come to our theaters, see three world premiere plays and see a play for less than the cost of a movie ticket,” says Hatton. “That’s pretty amazing.”

Dance ‘19 
For those who love dance, NKU’s School of the Arts also offers an opportunity to see unique choreography and up-and-coming dancers. Held April 26-28, Dance ’19 is dance students’ annual concert to display what they’ve been working on all year.

“It is a collective concert of modern, ballet, jazz, tap, musical theater and even some world cultural dance and things that the students have studied throughout the year,” says Tracey Bonner, assistant professor and Dance ’19 coordinator. “We bring in guest artists … and the students rehearse with those people and then we have that big performance at the end of the year. So for our dance majors, it’s the biggest thing we do. It’s their one big chance to do something that’s super exciting and super different.”

Between 30 and 60 dance majors, dance minors, musical theater majors and more participate in the annual show. The students are involved with every step of the process. Senior Sam Theders, for example, will be both choreographing for and dancing in this year’s concert.

“[It is] giving us a chance to see it both ways and it’s really exciting to be able to do that, to leave college and have that on my resume, too, to say I’ve been able to dance as well as choreograph for our main show,” she says.

While many of the dances are still being worked on at this time, Bonner is excited about two elements new to 2019.

First, an African dance specialist has been brought in to help choreograph an African dance for the show, the first time the end-of-year concert has featured that style of dance. Second, the school’s BSA residency students are choreographing the opening of the show.

Junior Franchesca Montazemi, who is performing in the concert for the first time this year, thinks all dance lovers will be able to take something away from the show. “I think we’re going to take a lot of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky people by surprise by what we have to offer. There’s just going to be a great learning experience about the world of dance,” she says.

Tickets are $12 per person for non-students and can be purchased at

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