A veteran of over 30 years as a tap and percussive dance artist, Drika Overton has been a leader in the resurgence of the vital American art of tap dance. Her original choreography and rhythmic compositions embody influences as diverse as early jazz vernacular movement and traditional jazz tap, West African and Afro-Cuban dance and drum, Celtic dance and music, and Japanese taiko and body percussion. The outcome is innovative and captivating, full of visual and rhythmic inventiveness.
Drika has shared the stage with many legendary artists including Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown, Brenda Bufalino, Fayard Nicholas, and Bill Irwin and has worked with many internationally recognized musicians. She has been the creative force in the formation of several innovative ensembles, from Take Five, a five-woman rhythm dance group in San Francisco, to StopTime, a premier jazz tap ensemble in New England in the late 1980’s. In the 1990’s she cofounded the trio Suite:Feet with musicians Kevin Farley and Steven Bracciotti and in 2003 partnered with legendary Maine luthier and ukulele player, Joel Eckhaus to create the vaudeville duo Ham & Legs. Drika has also been a featured soloist at the Duke Theater in New York as part of the New York City Tap Festival; the Southeastern TapExplosion in Atlanta; RhythmExplosion, Bozeman, Mont.; the Bates Dance Festival; the New England Artist’s Congress; The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Shipyard Project; on Public Television; and at numerous jazz clubs, concerts, and festivals.
In 2007 Drika was selected to participate in the first New England Dance Lab, a Regional Dance Development Initiative of the National Dance Project. Also in 2007 New England Presenters commissioned her and composer Paul Arslanian, with support from the New England Foundation for the Arts, to create a new touring project, Off the Beaten Path: A Jazz & Tap Odyssey, which toured New England in 2008-2009.
In 1995 Drika created the Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival, an internationally recognized week long summer festival of music, dance and song. From the creative energy of the festival over its many years Drika created MaD Theatricals, a unique collaboration of nationally and internationally celebrated jazz and tap artists including Brenda Bufalino, Josh Hilberman, Dean Diggins and Paul Arslanian, that produced thecritically acclaimed Clara's Dream A Jazz Nutcracker (2000), and Music Hall Follies: A Vaudeville in 9 Acts (2003), with special guest artists Bill Irwin and Fayard Nicholas. The Follies was an integral part of Drika’s large scale Portsmouth Vaudeville Project (1999-2003) that included the video documentary 4 Theatres: Remembering Portsmouth in the Age of Vaudeville which aired on NH Public Television and at film festivals around the country.
Drika has received four Spotlight on the Arts Awards from the Seacoast Newspapers as Best Dancer and for Best Dance Production for Clara's Dream a jazz nutcracker, a production also featured in the BBC documentary "Fascinating Rhythms." She has received an Artist Fellowship and New Works grants from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts as well as grants from the Greater Piscataqua Community Foundation, Art Builds Community! funded by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and The New England Foundation for the Arts. In 2007 she was awarded the New Hampshire Governor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Arts Leadership.
Drika teaches master classes and residencies at schools, colleges and universities, studios, and festivals throughout the United States. Dance companies at Rhode Island College, Auburn University, and dancers and ensembles countrywide have performed her choreography. She is currently on the Theater Dance Department Faculty at The Boston Conservatory.