Founder of New York dance production brings concept to Lipscomb to highlight students

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Aerial dancer -- Sine
Aerialist Stephanie Sine

Lipscomb University Theatre and New York City’s Group Theatre Too present “The Nashville Choreographer’s Canvas,” an evening of choreography from Nashville’s emerging and New York’s established choreographers, Oct. 4 and 5 at 7 p.m., and Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. in Shamblin Theatre.

The evening is curated by Peter Fields, artistic director of Lipscomb’s Orchesis Dance Company and Lipscomb theatre adjunct professor and award-winning choreographer Justin Boccitto. Described by Boccitto as similar to Fox TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” “The Nashville Choreographer’s Canvas” will include many types of dance including tap, ballet, jazz, Bollywood, Cirque du Soleil-style aerial dance and Charlie Chaplin-style eccentric dance. One number will be dedicated to portraying the history of dance from the 1920’s Charleston to modern hip-hop.

The original “New York Choreographer’s Canvas,” founded and coordinated by Boccitto six years ago, is an annual event that features the works of more than 15 choreographers each year, with a hundred submissions from around the world vying for a spot in the annual show. Now Boccitto, who directed Lipscomb’s production of Hairspray in 2011, wants to expand the experience to Nashville.

“This is an opportunity for people from all different dance backgrounds, including those not so familiar with dance, to come together for one night and experience dance in all its forms,” Boccitto said. “Each choreography piece tells a story and highlights the importance of dance throughout the ages and in our lives.”

Performers for the evening will include Lipscomb students, Lipscomb’s student dance company Orchesis, and special guests from New York, aerialist dancer Stephanie Sine and one of Group Theatre Too’s founding members Nicky Romaniello.

Sine, who has performed in the Britney Spears “Circus” tour and for the New York Choreographer’s Canvas, will perform an aerial piece. Romaniello will perform a humorous tap number together with Boccitto.

Other works will focus on student and Lipscomb alumni choreographers. Student choreographer Austin Hunt will present a hip-hop piece that was specially selected by the theatre department. Adjunct professor Kari Smith will present a modern piece, and Lipscomb alumni and Orchesis dancer, Darius Cal, will be a guest choreographer presenting a work of hip-hop/house style.

Boccitto, a long-time performer, director and producer in New York City and the co-founder of The Group Theatre Too, hopes to make “The Nashville Choreographer’s Canvas” a major event, much like the “New York Choreographer’s Canvas,” which has attracted famed guests like “Singin’ in the Rain” choreographer and director Stanley Donen and American choreographer Tony Stevens.

For the past 10 years, Boccitto’s work has been seen across the country in national tours, Off-Broadway, regional theatres, The Metropolitan Opera, The New York Musical Theatre & Fringe Festivals and Circle in the Square. He has worked closely with such artists as Nicole Fosse, Michael Blevins, Theodore Mann, David Rimmer and has taught at Broadway Dance Center, Manhattan Movement and The Juilliard School.

The evening will also be part of Lipscomb’s Herdcoming Week, Oct. 1-7.

For tickets to “The Nashville Choreographer’s Canvas,” call the Theatre Box Office at 615-966-7077 or log on to


Group Theatre Too dancers
"Nashville Choreographer's Canvas" director and tap dancer Justin Boccitto (far right) performs a humorous piece with two other Group Theatre Too dancers.