Faculty & Staff
STAFFORD C. BERRY, JR. is the Associate Artistic Director of the African American Dance Ensemble where he toured for 12 years, Managing Director of the Berry & Nance Dance Project, and is on the faculty of the American Dance Festival. He has taught, choreographed, and performed African rooted dance and theatre throughout the United States and the Caribbean. An advocate for the advancement of the arts, he has served on Dance Panels for the North Carolina Arts Council & the Durham Arts Council, and he's served on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Dance Alliance. Mr. Berry has been a Master Teacher for the National Foundation for the Arts Competition in Miami, Florida. He has performed in works by (Dance) Melvin Purnell, Dennis Wayne, David Dorfman, Assane Konte, Dr. Kariamu Welsh Asante, Dr. Bill Banfield, Penny Bridgers, and Dr. Chuck Davis; (Theatre) Ed Shockley, Zadia Ife and August Wilson.
Originally from Chester, Pennsylvania, Mr. Berry received his formal education in theatre, dance, and music from Temple University & North Carolina Central University, and received his MFA from Hollins University/ADF. He is eternally grateful for the knowledge imparted to him from several masters in the US and in Africa, including Les Ballet Africaines, the National Dance Company of Guinea, West Africa. In 1996, Mr. Berry was certified as a teacher of the Umfundalai Technique and in 1997 was Assistant to the Choreographer for Kariamu & Company, with whom he'd also been a principal dancer for 5 years. In 1992 he co-founded the Seventh Principle Performance Company and in 1997 he co-founded the Berry and Nance Dance Project.
Mr. Berry's choreographer's awards and grants have been numerous. He was awarded the Neumann Cultural Enrichment Grant to create a new work (1994). He received a North Carolina Arts Council Choreographers Fellowship (2000), a Cooper Foundation Grant (2002), two Five County Arts Grants from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance in PA (2003, 2004), a Ford Foundation Grant to create a new ballet in collaboration with Dr. Chuck Davis (2004) and most recently, an Emerging Artist grant from the Durham Arts Council which will allow him to create new music for a ballet (2008). His work, a combination of dance, theatre and music, can be seen in the archives of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Sandra Mathern-Smith has been dancing and choreographing for thirty-years and is committed to working collaboratively with improvisation as a performance form. She has had the pleasure of performing and collaborating with veteran improvisers such as Peter Bingham, Karen Nelson, K. J. Holmes, Chris Aiken, and David Beadle, as well as Butoh artist Katsura Kan. Her study of improvisation, including the forms Contact Improvisation, Authentic Movement, and Ensemble Thinking, has been with artist/teachers Danny Lepkoff, Nancy Stark Smith, Julyen Hamilton, Andrew Harwood, Nina Martin, Deborah Hay, and Barbara Dilley. Her work, focusing on collaboration, improvisation, and interdisciplinary projects, has incorporated video-projected backdrops, live music, poetic text, set designs, while working with artists of many disciplines. Contained, an installation piece created for solo performer involving 4 large moving screens with projected imagery and a voice activated environment, was presented at Dartington College, England (2006).
Artist Residencies at the Camac Centre D’Art, France (2012), and at the Atlantic Center for the Arts under Wally Cardona (2010), contributed to the development of Swimming in Green. She was an artist Fellow at the Hambidge Center for the Arts (GA) and a semi-finalist for the Headlands Center for the Arts residency program (CA). Recently, her work was presented at the Conduit Dance Guest Series (OR), the Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, the RAD Festival (MI), and she has been invited as choreographer and teacher to the Nomad Express International Multi-Arts Festival in Burkina Faso, West Africa (2014).
Sandra received an Individual Excellence Award in Choreography from the Ohio Arts Council (2010), has twice received an Ohio Individual Artist Fellowship in Choreography (1993, 1996), and has been awarded over 20-grants for her work from the Ohio Arts Council, Arts Midwest, Target, Greater Columbus Arts Council (OH), Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Portland Metropolitan Arts Commission (OR), among others. She is a Professor at Denison University, Department of Dance, Granville, OH, where since 1988 she has taught courses such as modern/postmodern technique, improvisation, performance, choreography, production, and collaborative art courses employing technology. She received her BA from Portland State University and MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Gill Wright Miller, Associate Professor of Dance and Women's Studies, has been at Denison full-time since 1981. Dr. Miller earned her PhD from New York University in Dance and Women's Studies, her MA from Wesleyan University in Movement Studies, and her BFA in Performance from Denison University.
Dr. Miller's written research concerns public constructions of the pregnant body, healing from a developmental movement base, and body politics in general. She is highly involved in the world of experiential anatomy, most specifically Body-Mind Centering. She has received several grants for her work, including a major grant from the University of Minnesota, in "Embodied Research." She accepted the coveted Arnold Professorship at Whitman College in Washington for Spring 2009. Her most recent book, Exploring Body-Mind Centering: An Anthology in Experience and Method, was published in 2011, and she is the author of many essays, including the 2011 publications of "Women in Dance" in The Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World and "Creativity and Mothering" in The Encyclopedia of Motherhood." This past year, Dr. Miller published a chapter called “The Transmission of African-American Concert and American Jazz Dance” in Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches (Oliver and Guarino, 2013.) She is also compiling an anthology on African dance. Dr. Miller is currently working on an essay on research and methodology in dance studies and a second book on Somatics and the Body Movement in the United States, tentatively titled Pedagogies of the Body.
Dr. Miller teaches coursework in somatics, movement analysis, and cultural studies. Besides teaching somatics (including work from Ideokinesis, Bartenieff Fundamentals and Basic Neurocellular Patterns from Body-Mind Centering) and movement analysis (including reconstructing sections of works by Humphrey, Weidman, Limon, Cunningham, and others) every year, her recent courses include topics in dance's cultural studies, such "Modernism ReComposed," "Postmodernism in Dance," and "African-American Concert Dance," and "The Body in Performance."
A Texas native, John Osburn was enthralled by the sound of drums back when he watched his father play in a country-rock band as a child in numerous venues around Austin, Texas. After going through his secondary school training in percussion, he studied music at Texas Woman's University in the small town of Denton. He was eventually lured into the TWU Department of Dance, where he became a musician for dance technique classes and improvisation jams. While at TWU, he established many creative relationships with local visual artists both inside and outside of the University.
After playing for the American Dance Festival in 2010, Osburn took a brief hiatus from dance accompaniment to conduct his graduate studies in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, housed by Queen's University. While at SARC, his focus steered away from percussion and more into electronic music composition, sound design, interaction design for new musical instruments and art installations, and spatial audio research.
Upon returning to the States, Osburn was asked by members of the TWU faculty to return as one of three facilitators for the Dance Department's weekly contact improvisation jams.
As a composer/sound designer, his works have been performed in various venues around Texas, Northern Ireland, and in South Korea.
Currently, Osburn acts as the Resident Musician for Denison University's Department of Dance and focuses his time researching and practicing new and innovative ways to accompany dance classes and jams with both acoustic and electronic instruments.