The Kennedy Center

Emily Oleson


Emily Oleson is a crossover dance artist/student interested in framing American Vernacular Dance to include broad ranges of movers and styles, from traditional Appalachian flatfooting to contemporary urban dances; and she’s interested in taking the study of these dance forms into the academy, through the kind of project-based empowered learning that she can’t seem to stop inflicting upon herself.  She is a co-Artistic Director of Good Foot Dance Company with her husband Matthew Olwell where she makes “trad dance theater.”  She is one of several Artistic Directors with Urban Artistry, a collective of interdisciplinary artists pursuing a broad and authentic practice of urban dance, music, poetry and visual art.  Oleson has been invited to start a Dance program at Davis & Elkins College, in Elkins, WV, home of the prestigious Augusta Heritage Center, where she has been on staff for Dance Week for the past 7 years.  

Emily Oleson received her MFA in Dance at the University of Maryland College Park in May 2012, where she was honored to dance for many excellent choreographers including PEARSONWIDRIG DANCE THEATER, Gesel Mason, and Liz Lerman, all of whom influenced her thinking mind/body in profoundly helpful ways.  Most recently, other influential mentors and teachers have been tap historian Ann Kilkelly, Baakari Wilder, Junious “House” Brickhouse, Aysha Upchurch, Russell “Ironman” Campbell, Rashaad Pearson, April Masten and Greg C. Adams as a musical and scholarly collaborators.  Her MFA thesis concert Vaudevival: Old is the new New was co-presented by Dance Place in July 2012, and her research is available at

Her performance highlights of traditional and contemporary dance include appearing with The Chieftains, Lunasa, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, at Performatica in Cholula, Mexico, Strathmore Music Center, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Wheatland Music Festival, Lake Eden Arts Festival, the Dance Flurry, Floydfest, the Newport Folk Festival with Seeger’s Clogging All-Stars, and in Battle of the Crews: USA vs. France, site specific work at the National Botanical Gardens and the patio of the Kennedy Center with Dahlia Nayar Butler, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Virginia with Bill T. Jones’ 100 Migrations, Dance Place, the Ithaca Festival (working an a team manning a giant Michael Jackson puppet), and WAXworks in Brooklyn, NY.  She feels lucky to have had many varied opportunities and wonders why it makes sense to separate them into the above two categories . . .
Emily Oleson