Michigan-born dancer, musician, and dance researcher Nic Gareiss has been described by the Irish Times as “the human epitome of the unbearable lightness of being,” and “the most inventive and expressive step dancer on the scene” by the Boston Herald. His work re-imagines movement as a musical practice, recasting dance as medium that appeals to both eyes and ears. Gareiss draws from many percussive dance traditions to weave together a dance technique facilitating his love of improvisation, traditional footwork vocabulary, and musical collaboration. He has performed with many of the luminaries of contemporary traditional music and dance, including The Chieftains, The Gloaming, Darol Anger, Dervish, Buille, Solas, Liz Carroll, Genticorum, Bill Frisell, Colin Dunne, Bruce Molsky, Alasdair Fraser, and Martin Hayes. He collaborates regularly with Cleek Schrey, Maeve Gilchrist, Simon Chrisman, Allison de Groot, Brittany Haas, Jordan Tice, and as a member of the quartet This is How we Fly.
In 2011 Gareiss was commissioned by the Cork Opera House to create and perform two new solo percussive dance pieces to celebrate the 75th birthday of composer Steve Reich. His setting of Reich’s piece Clapping Music for percussive dancer and video installation was hailed by the Irish Times as “a leftfield tour-de-force with irresistible wow factor.” In 2013, he served as community liaison for the Wheatland Music Organization’s 40th Anniversary production Carry it on…, supervising a cast of 70 non-professional dancers from rural communities across the state of Michigan. Gareiss received a Traditional Arts Commission from the Irish Arts Council to create an evening-length fiddle and dance duo show with Caoimhín Ó Raghalliah. The resulting piece, Mice Will Play had a sell-out run at the Project Arts Centre during the 2013 Dublin Fringe Festival. In 2015 and 2016, Nic was recognized by Michigan State Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program as a master traditional artist.
Gareiss has concertized in fourteen countries and continues to tour and teach internationally, working with dance communities and making solo percussive dance performances. Nic holds degrees in anthropology and music from Central Michigan University and recently earned his MA in Ethnochoreology at the University of Limerick. His MA thesis based upon ethnographic work with LGTBQ competitive step dancers was the first piece of scholarship to query the experience of sexual minorities within Irish dance. Gareiss’ essay, “An Buachaillín Bán: Reflections on One Queer’s Performance within Traditional Irish Music & Dance” appears in the book Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings edited by Clare Croft on Oxford University Press. His present research seeks to illuminate discursive formations of national identity, gender and sexual orientation via ethnography and embodied practice.