Connecting in Chicago

Senior Nicole Gemmell led seven dancers to Chicago in April to compete for a chance to set her choreography on Inaside Chicago Dance, a not-for-profit jazz company based in the Windy City.

The piece, “IdentiFind,” was performed on the Athenaeum Theatre’s main stage in late April, concluding Chicago’s celebration of National Dance Month. Gemmell’s work was recognized as first runner up out of 21 works shown.

“I got a lot of really positive feedback,” Gemmell said. “Our dancers looked like a professional company. A lot of the other pieces included professional dancers in them, and the ECU dancers matched their professionalism, technique and performance quality.”

The Wake Forest native said that the experience built confidence for the East Carolina dancers. “We often think that we aren’t professional because we’re in college,” she said. ECU has a strong program that prepares us to compete in this field, she said. “This is do-able.”

Gemmell said the inspiration for “IdentiFind” came from blank canvas. “As you mature in your walk through life, you begin to get your voice. Maybe you dance and it’s represented by a color. Maybe you get injured. The color goes away a bit, but it’s still a part of you,” she said.

While Gemmell didn’t win the opportunity to work with Inaside Chicago Dance as a guest choreographer, she auditioned with the company earlier in the year and won an apprenticeship. She begins service in August.

“I’m excited to grow as a dancer and artist, and to try to get into the choreography scene,” she said.” This was my first audition. It was like God was saying ‘this is where I need to be.’”

The ECU-Chicago connection is strong with Inaside Dance. Richard A. Smith (BFA ’00) is the artistic director of the company, which includes dancer Marcus Hardy (BFA ’12). Smith was in residence last fall to set “Come Snow, Sleet, or Shine” on ECU dancers. The work was performed on the Dance 2016 program in McGinnis Theatre and featured 13 ECU dancers, including Gemmell.

“There are a lot of ECU dance alumni in Chicago,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities and everybody is so willing to help.”

The dancers were supported in part by the Fine Arts Funding Board, a body that allocates emergency funding to support student opportunities in the arts.


Nicole Gemmell and seven dancers pose outside of Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre.

Nicole Gemmell and seven dancers pose outside of Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre.

, from left: Melissa Henley, Nicole Gemmell, Benji Martin, Erica Bolick, Kennedy Hill, Katherine Corbett, Taliah Vanderbeek, and Katy Quick at Chicago’s Athenaeum.