Profile: 2010 Heart of the Arts Award nominee René Neville

Solo or part of a troupe, onstage or behind the scenes, paid or volunteer, each of the five 2010 Heart of the Arts Award nominees gives 100 percent to the bright and varied world of arts and entertainment in Broome County. All this week BAMirror will be providing biographical background about the nominees. We’re also offering you an opportunity to congratulate the nominees and to share a story or two. Today we feature René Neville, artistic director of Dance Stories.

NOTE TO BCAC MEMBERS: Your HOTA Ballot must be in by 5 p.m. Sept. 7. The three HOTA award recipients and this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree will be announced on Oct. 1. They will receive their awards during the Heart of the Arts Awards Celebration Oct. 8 in the Recital Hall of The Forum in Binghamton.

René Neville, artistic director of Dance Stories

René NevilleRené Neville began her dance study at age 4 in 1966, learning ballet, tap and jazz at the Barbara DeMarco School of Dance in Binghamton. The school held a yearly recital but did not participate in contests, because DeMarco strongly felt that competitions fostered rivalry and opposition instead of partnerships and collaboration. This early dance training and philosophy has greatly influenced René’s work to the present day.

As a dancer, René has performed with Lois Welk & The American Dance Asylum, Pink Inc., Tri-Town Theatre, Pfodeaux’ge, the Summer Savoyards, Chrysalis, the Lyric Performers and the EPAC Repertory Company. As a performer, she has held the roles of Ruth Condomine in “Blithe Spirit,” Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Texas in “Cabaret,” Judy in “A Chorus Line,” Maggie Jones in “42nd Street,” Dionne in “HAIR,” Fastrada in “Pippin,” Ellen van Oss in “Two Rooms” and Liz in “Chicago.” Choreography credits include “Bells Are Ringing,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Mikado,” “Sensory Perceptions,” “Grease,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “High School Musical,” “The Jungle Book,” “Proud Mary,” “Letters Never Written,” Lyric Performers shows, EPAC Christmas shows and “The World Goes Round.” As a teacher, René has served on the faculty of both the EPAC Children’s Theater Workshop and the EPAC School of Performing Arts.

In 2008 René gathered together a few of her choreographer friends and dancers to create “ART [the] Dance,” a collaboration and exploration into various themes and motifs of the art world as seen through the perspective of dance and body movement. The next year she again gathered the tribes and created “SUMMERTIME,” an exploration of, as the name suggests, summer. Then René made the brave decision to bring to fruition a dream she had fostered for many years: She created a dance company, Dance Stories, whose mission is to create stories, told through dance, of the experiences, wonders and consequences that occur and are celebrated in the human condition within us.

In January 2010, Dance Stories was established as the resident dance company of the Endicott Performing Arts Center (EPAC). Dance Stories is a multi-generational dance company that unites choreographers and dancers in a mutually encouraging and trusting environment to create, share, learn and exchange dance art. Members range from teenagers to people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Many in the latter age groups are experienced and accomplished dancers who have made the decision to settle and establish roots in the Southern Tier. The members of Dance Stories believe in the beauty of a body at any age, and their love of the art of dance is reflected not only through the stories they tell with their bodies, but through the stories they tell with their hearts and souls. For the younger members of the dance company, Dance Stories provides an environment in which the teenagers can come together in a forum that is devoid of competition and is authentic in its support and encouragement.

The dance community in Broome County, though relatively small, is nonetheless supportive and cooperative, and René’s greatest mentors and choreography collaborators have come from this dance family. Her mission is to continue to keep the greater dance spirit of Broome County alive to reach, teach and grow.

René holds a B.A. in English Literature (specialization in folklore), and a minor in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from Binghamton University. She works in the School of Education at BU and is proudly married to Rick Lonzinski. They live in Johnson City.

If you wish to offer your congratulations or tell your best René story, please comment here.

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