2007 Governors Arts Awards
Distinguished Arts Leadership Award Recipient:
Percussive dance artist, producer, director, educator, performer and choreographer Drika Overton has had over a twenty-year career devoted to the arts in New Hampshire and the region. In spite of living just over the Piscataqua River in Kittery, ME., her achievements have enhanced the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in New Hampshire and beyond.
Drika Overton, Kittery, ME
Overton is a member of the Touring Artist and Arts in Education rosters of the State Arts Council and has performed and taught residencies in schools around the state, presenting lecture-demonstrations that chronicle the history of the uniquely American art forms of jazz and tap.
She is the creator and director of the internationally recognized Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival which has attracted artists and students from around the world since 1995, and has helped increase Portsmouth’s profile as a dynamic center for dance innovation. She has performed and promoted percussive dance and tap on NH Public Television, NH Public Radio and in public celebrations in Portsmouth including Prescott Park Arts Festival, First Night and Market Square events.
As an innovative force, she created MaD (music and dance) Theatricals in 1999 as an outgrowth of her Festival. This unique collaboration of acclaimed jazz and tap artists has created Clara’s Dream: A Jazz Nutcracker, which is performed at the Music Hall and other venues in NH and throughout the Northeast, and Music Hall Follies A Vaudeville in 9 Acts featuring Bill Irwin and Fayard Nicholas in celebration of the Music Hall’s 125th anniversary in 2003. She is currently directing the developement of MaD Theatricals new production Off the Beaten Path: A Jazz & Tap Odyssey which is scheduled to begin touring NH and New England in the fall of 2008.
She has been a featured artist at the New York City Tap Festival; the Southeastern Tap Explosion in Atlanta; the Bates Dance Festival; the New England Artist's Congress; Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange Shipyard Project; Public Television; and numerous jazz clubs, concerts, and festivals.
In addition to her work in dance, Drika played a active role in advocating for the survival of the historic theater that has come to be known as the Music Hall. In the 1980s it was the only one of four historic Portsmouth theaters still standing. When the future of the 1878 theater was in doubt, Overton’s dedication as one of the Friends of the Music Hall helped save this important part of Portsmouth’s cultural legacy.
She remained actively involved with the historic theater, subsequently serving as a board member and co-producing a documentary in which the theater was prominently featured. The documentary, 4 Theatres; Remembering Portsmouth in the Age of Vaudeville, traced Portsmouth’s civic and cultural life in the 20 th Century.
Her numerous awards include an Artist fellowship from the State Arts Council and Art Builds Community! funded by the Lila-Wallace Readers' Digest Fund.