Nicole Clarke-SpringerArtistic Director

Nicole Clarke-Springer began formal training under the guidance of Claudette Soltis (Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Joliet Ballet Society) and the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre under Dace Diodonis. She received her B.S. in Arts Administration-Dance from Butler University in Indianapolis, IN where she received the award as Butler Ballet’s Outstanding Performer.

Shortly after graduating from Butler, Nicole found her dance home within the Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre family- first as an apprentice and later as company member. As a member of Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, Nicole had the opportunity to perform with artists such as Roberta Flack in Kevin Iega Jeff’s Flack as well as Jennifer Holiday in the world-renowned Penumbra Theatre’s Black Nativity. Upon briefly leaving the company in 2007, she served as Adjunct Professor at Western Kentucky University’s Dance Department. While there, Nicole was asked to join the Clifton Brown Dance Company-performing with the company on its’ tour to Istanbul, Turkey. The same year, Clarke-Springer returned to the Deeply family as Summer Intensive Program Director. During this time, she began deepening her choreographic voice, creating and later setting works such as Nine, Dounia and Femme for both the first and second company. She also served as Assistant Choreographer to Kevin Iega Jeff for Congo Square Theatre’s Nativity for two years.

In 2013, Nicole joined the Kevin Iega Jeff and Gary Abbott as the newest member of the DRP Artistic Team and was named Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre’s Emerging Choreographer for the program Generations. Her work Hadiya was met with favorable reviews and noted as:

“ a poignant memorial tribute”…” filled with ….”Ritualistic gestures [that] carry a ceremonial theme.”….. “a living eulogy not only for the slain Hadiya Pendleton, but for all children who have lost their lives to violence.” -Lynn Colburn Shapiro See Dance

In August (2015), she had the honor of traveling with Deeply Rooted participating in Jomba! Dance Festival hosted by Flatfoot Dance Company where she had the pleasure of setting her ballet Until Lambs Become Lions on the host company.

Just recently Clarke-Springer choreographed the opening number for the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey Show- Halloween Celebration. Crediting the Deeply Rooted mission, Nicole works to create an environment that is challenging yet inspiring-helping each dancer find their spiritual connection within the work and most importantly themselves.

Gary AbbottCo-Founder / Associate Artistic Director

Gary Abbott began his career as a dancer in Atlanta, GA with Barbara Sullivan’s Atlanta Dance Theatre. There he developed his interest in choreography and created works for musicals presented by Jomandi Productions and The Clark College Players. Receiving a scholarship to attend California Institute of the Arts in 1979, Abbott studied with dance legends Crystine Lawson, Nicholas Gunn and Mia Slavenska. Abbott later moved to Los Angeles where he danced with Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Theatre.

In 1985, Abbott was invited to dance with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble of Denver, CO where he was nurtured by Ms. Parker-Robinson to create several dances which are still a part of the company’s repertoire. His career there allowed Abbott to study with many great luminaries of the dance world. Among them are Katherine Dunham, Donald McKayle, Eleo Pomare, Donald Byrd and Kevin Iega Jeff.

While residing in Denver, Abbott brought his choreographic talents to The Denver Center for the Performing Arts in the shows, Star Fever (based on The Bacchae by Euripides) and Don Quixote directed by Pavel Dobrusky. Abbott continued to work with Mr. Dobrusky at the Cleveland Playhouse, where he served as choreographer for the play Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca. It was during his 10 years with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble that Abbott first visited Gillette, WY and directed and choreographed a year-long project called Harambee. From that project, a musical theater summer intensive, “Performance Art Workshop” (PAW) was co-founded by Abbott, Jeff, and Suzanne Dowler. PAW is in its 29th year of serving the Gillette community.

Abbott and Jeff, along with Linda Spriggs, Diane Shober and LaVerne Alaphaire Jeff founded Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT) in 1995. The company’s mission enables Abbott to continue to serve and grow as an artist. Abbott and Jeff’s artistic goals extend beyond just the dance world and into the world of musical theatre as well. From 2001-2003, Abbott served as choreographer and Jeff as director for Black Nativity presented by the Penumbra Theatre. In 2008 Abbott choreographed “Ballad of Emmet Till” directed by Oz Scott for The Goodman Theater in Chicago and in 2010 Abbott shares choreographic duties with Mr. Jeff for “Aida” for the Bailiwick Theater of Chicago.

Abbott was privileged to teach at prestigious universities and workshops including special workshops at Tanzen, Vienna, Austria, Peridance Studios in New York City, as guest instructor and choreographer at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga, University of Missouri in Kansas City, and Iieve Dance Foundation in Bar, Montenegro, Sofia, Bulgaria and Durban, South Africa, Tianjin, China and Shenzhen, China..

Abbott has been fortunate to choreograph works for Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Theater of Kansas City, MO., Dallas Black Dance Theater of Dallas, Tx, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance of Denver, CO., David Taylor Dance Theater of Denver CO and others.
Along with his duties as Associate Artistic Director for DRDT, Gary Abbott also serves as Assistant Professor of Dance and University of Missouri Kansas City.

Joshua L. IshmonAssistant Artistic / Rehearsal Director

Joshua L. Ishmon was born and raised in Gary, IN. He is a 2007 graduate of Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts where he also studied with Ballet Chicago and M.A.D.D. Rhythms. After graduating, Ishmon joined Deeply Rooted Dance Theater 2 and in 2009, he matriculated into the 1st company. He is now a co-rehearsal director, a co-founder and the Artistic/Producing Director of Deeply Rooted’s Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase in addition to continuing to dance with the company. Ishmon is also a member of Winifred R. Harris’ Between Lines (Denver, CO), Seamless Dance Theater (Kansas City, MO), a guest artist with Ballet Chicago as well as Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and has shared the stage with Bobby McFerrin. Joshua is always in a constant pursuit of deepening his artistry, continuing to grow, and must pay homage to the amazing people whose shoulders’ he stands on.

Tracey FranklinDance Education Director

Tracey Franklin, a Chicago native, began her training at the age of 16 at Joseph Holmes Dance Theater. In 1999 she became a graduate of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Certificate Program. In 2000, Franklin got her first contract as a company member of Dallas Black Dance Theater, where she danced for four years. In 2004 she returned to Chicago and became a company member of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, where she danced for 12 years. Franklin is currently the department head assistant and Horton technique instructor at The Chicago High School for the Arts. She is also an instructor at the Hyde Park School of Dance and Studio One in Chicago.

Kevin Iega JeffCreative Director, Deeply Rooted Productions

Kevin Iega Jeff began studying dance formally at age thirteen.  He trained at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts, Darvash Ballet School, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center before matriculating into The Juilliard School.  As a dancer he has been praised for his technical brilliance and rigor, his dramatic power, and the singular ability to perform and bridge different dance forms in a seamless manner, whether it be ballet, modern, contemporary, or African American dance.

At the age of twenty one, Iega founded his first company, JUBILATION! Dance Company in New York City.  JUBILATION! was created out of a need to provide a forum for African-American artists to be nurtured holistically through the arts.  For ten years the company toured nationally and internationally, helping to bring the stories, histories, and art of the African American people as well as his unique approach to contemporary dance to a global audience.While continuing to perform as a dancer, it was at JUBILATION! that Iega began his life long pursuit of both choreographing new work and directing a company that would train a new generation of dancers and choreographers.  In 1994, he left New York to take up an appointment as Artistic Director of the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater.  In 1995, he co-founded Deeply Rooted Productions in Chicago where he continues to serve today as Artistic Director.  As a choreographer, Iega has created more than fifty works, ranging from solos to large-scale company dances, where he pushes contemporary dance to take cognizance of different voices and aesthetics. He primarily creates for Deeply Rooted, but also continuously receives commissions by other companies to create new works for them, such as the Alvin Ailey Dance Ensemble, River North Dance Company, Dallas Black Dance Theater, the Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theater, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and the Wylliams/Henry Danse Theatre.In 2005, Iega was named as one of the Juilliard School’s 100 Outstanding Alumni in celebration of the school’s centenary anniversary.  Among his other awards are those from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Council for Culture and Arts, and the BTAA Best Choreography award for Church of Nations. He received a Merit Award from the International Association of Blacks in Dance, and joined their Board in January 2006.  Most recently, Iega was awarded the 2009 Chicago Dance Makers Forum Grant to support the creation of I Am Deeply Rooted, which premiered in the Spring of 2010.Iega has served as artist-in-residence at Howard University, the University of Las Vegas, Goucher College, SUNY Purchase and at Purdue University’s Black Cultural Center. His work has been featured in several films, including Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, and in the Broadway shows Comin’ Uptown and The Wiz.  Iega’s Walls premiered at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA.  In 2003, Iega and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Associate Artistic Director Gary Abbott co-choreographed Jagged Ledges, featuring Tony Award-winning spoken word artist Staceyann Chin. In 2006, he and Abbott were commissioned to choreograph Three Brazilian Dances for the Chicago Sinfonietta, which premiered at Chicago’s Symphony Hall.

As Iega reflects on fifteen years at Deeply Rooted, he states: “I want my work to grow truer, more focused, and relevant over time.  My art is born out of human examination, and my desire to communicate authentically informs what I create. For me dance is a perfect catalyst. It reveals the inner voice, reflecting who we are and who we strive to become.”