Showcasing the Arts

June/July 2019 Featured Artist:
Tracey Bonner


Bob Clark
Tracey Bonner considers the people she meets along her artist’s journey as the “ultimate beauty” in life.

I have been dancing since I was 6 and choreographing since I was 12, even choreographing my first musical as a sophomore in high school. There is rarely a moment when I can sit still, even when I watch dancing or theater of any kind, I tend to keep the beat with my body. My life is in constant motion around theater, dance, arts and/or social advocacy, and the mentoring of young artist circles in Kentucky and beyond. I rarely sit still, and my brain is always creating the next opportunity in my mind.

After an extensive career as a performing artist touring the country with Broadway shows, I entered graduate school and became the choreographer I always wanted to be. Through continued mentorship of many amazing artists including Mercedes Ellington, Trish Clark, Loretta Livingston, Dr. Ama S. Wray, Baayork Lee, Dr. Jennifer Fisher and the late great Donald McKayle. I continue to create new works in theater and dance venues and each time I create a new work, a portion of each of these artists is present with me in the new creation. This is the ultimate beauty of the artist journey in life — the people you encompass and experience along the way.

While my concert work is varied in genre — tap, swing, jazz, modern and contemporary — the artistic experience is central to the outcome. I seek always to be a change agent with the work I make, whether that be for the audience, for the artists in collaboration with me, or for my own self-discovery. Paramount in everything I create is the relevance to humanity and authenticity. More recent concert works include “An Ingrown Life” (2014), a dance duet exploring empathy and compassion for inclusion; “An Ethical Mandate” (2013), a dance and spoken text work addressing gun violence and instigated by the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut; and “Becoming Human” (2017), an exploration of discovering one’s personal humanity and our necessity for connection to others for complete human experience. My newest work, yet to be titled, is currently in development and will premiere in fall 2019. It exemplifies the experience of being trapped and stuck in life and having to fight your way back to yourself. This work, as with most of my work, is highly athletic, dynamic, poignant and intense.

As a theatrical choreographer, I carry a great capacity to marry the lines of dance and theater, while leaving room for an individual artist to discover a deeper sense in the process of creation. In 2017, a production of “Smokey Joe’s Café” at The Woodford Theatre in Versailles was the highlight of the season. More recently, in a production of “Swing!” at The Carnegie in Covington, the dancing is highly athletic, the singing is soulful and the storytelling is simple and personal. Having served as director and choreographer for both productions, I was able to create an environment where audiences left the theater feeling uplifted and renewed.

As a mentor and teacher, I strive to be the light for young artists that pushes them to strive beyond any preconceived notions. I take special cause to mentor young women in any capacity. In a world that sometimes chooses to silence women who are strong and independent, I want to be the example that standing up for what you believe in is not bossy, but rather shows a capacity for great leadership. There is no doubt this shows up in my art as well, in a variety of ways.

My day job is that of Bachelor of Fine Arts Dance Coordinator at Northern Kentucky University. My desire to teach critical analysis, inclusive excellence, personal compassion, and artistic excellence in any and every way influences every particle of the person I am and the work that I do. I seek to be, as the Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi urged, the change I want to see in the world.

Tracey Bonner is a 2016 recipient of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in choreography.


Tracey Bonner
Wilder, Ky.

Twitter: @BonnerTracey
Instagram: @traceydancesnsings


Page last updated: June 1, 2019
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