BIOs
       
 

Lena Gilbert
Principal Vocalist

Gilbert has used her immense creativity and vocal skills with the company since 2001. She premiered many works including Slow Down, Feast of the Senses, Rondo, and Coffee. She creates the accompaniment for the modern dance work in performance, following the dance movement. She contributes to the shape and form of all the work of the company, bringing not only her musical skills (excerpts here), but her vision to each piece.

 
 

Gilbert has studied voice with Jeannette LoVetri, Jack Eppler and Ted Muzio. She holds an MFA in dance from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. As a modern dancer she has performed at various New York City venues, including the Joyce SoHo, Aaron Davis Hall, Joe’s Pub, and many others. Her choreography has been presented by the New Baltic International Dance Festival in Lithuania. She is a member of Polaris North, a professional actor’s collective. Her acting performances have included Annelle in Steel Magnolias and Lainie in Lee Blessing’s Two Rooms, a performance which Newsday called “soul-stirring.”

 
 
 

George Lilly
Tango Coordinator

 
  Lilly has been with the company since 2004, not only dancing his elegant tango, but serving as coordinator of tango performance and repertory.  A classical guitarist from high school, he brings exquisite musicality to tango dancing.  Trained as a ballroom dancer, he also studied modern dance before finding tango as the medium most satisfying to him.

 Lilly is creating a tango for this time and place, rooted in the salon tango of Buenos Aires, but adapted to now and here.  Interested in alternative music for tango, he is adept at dancing to Piazzolla’s classical music and to work not composed specifically for dance.  He also creates tango productions with unity and coherence.

 He has performed on the stage with this company and in concerts of international dance, at the New York Milonga with maestro Tito Castro playing bandoneon, and in Argentinean restaurants in New York.  Like all the great traditional tango dancers and like the modern dancers of this company, Lilly improvises in performance

 
  Nancy Vining Van Ness
Director

Van Ness is a dance innovator who created the system of dance and musical accompaniment of the company. She has performed and directed in the United States and performed at the Atelier de la danse in Paris, the oldest modern dance institution in that city. She was a member of the Barbara Mettler Dance Company in Tucson and founded Dallas Dance Vision where she did much of the work of putting her system of dance and musical accompaniment in practice. Van Ness founded American Creative Dance in 1995. Her vision for performance is dance free of classical and other dance conventions and performance where all the artists create instead of a choreographer and composer or author doing so. American Creative Dance is the vehicle for continuing production of new dance, music, and theater. Van Ness has danced in New York with the art installations of artist Jaime Davidovich and interpreted a monologue by author Suzanne McCoy.
 
  An artist who continues to seek new forms and new creative problems to solve, Van Ness found Argentine tango to be a partner dance suited to her ends.  She appreciated its traditions of improvisation and live music, though they are not always respected in performance today.  She studied intensively in New York with Tioma Maloratsky and in Buenos Aires with tango legend, maestro de maestros, Puppy Castello.

Applying her vision of empowering collaborators to tango medium as well, Van Ness encouraged the company's tango performers to draft the Tango Performance Paradigm that has informed its tango work.  She and her partner George Lilly, in daring departure from tango work seen today, danced to three of Astor Piazzolla's classical compositions, played by brilliant young cellist Wendy Law.  The collaboration resulted in a trio for two dancers and cellist.

Van Ness continues to explore fresh uses of the tango idiom.  She seeks to use the traditional tango, freed from the influence of ballet or other dance idioms and freed from its stereotypical theatrical conventions. 

 
 
Ann Folke Wells
 
  Ann Folke Wells, doyenne of the theater with experience in every aspect of the art and craft of stage productions, makes things happen at American Creative Dance.  Her ideas have been the starting point for much of the company's work.  For Purple with a Red, A Feast for the Senses, and Coffee, she has read poetry from very early anonymous English women writers through Percy B. Shelley, Emily Dickinson, Jenny Joseph, T. S. Elliot, and Jacques Prévert.  Her voice is an expressive instrument that lingers in the mind long after her words are no longer physically audible. 

A genius in a thrift shop or the attic as well as knowledgeable about contemporary dance wear, she costumes most of the work.  She discovers props in the most unlikely places, and made the Touch section of A Feast for the Senses a favorite part of the company's repertory with objects like a bungee cord, Chinese newspaper, feathers and sandpaper blocks.  Her creativity in these areas is boundless.

Not the least of her contributions is in stage management, which she does with the same attention to detail that characterizes all her work.

Ann holds degrees in theater from Northwestern University and has experience in summer stock, regional, and off Broadway productions of every genre of theater from musicals through dance companies.  She sang Bloody Mary in South Pacific in Illinois, lighted work in Santa Fe, stage managed in Atlanta.  We are grateful that she has remained in New York for the past decade to work with and inspire us.

 
 
 

Terry Wells
Lighting Design

 
 

Terry Wells is a magician with lights and has lighted all major productions of American Creative Dance. The dancers rely on him to make visions for them to dance with and audiences delight in the beauty of his work. (The home page photograph - click here - is an example.)

Terry garnered invaluable experience lighting Broadway Road shows. He also taught in the theater departments of the University of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania State University. His advice and counsel in all matters of stage production are invaluable to this company.