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EJ Thomas Hall - University of Akron
United States
Ohio
Akron, OH
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Neos Dance Theatre now headquartered at The University of Akron's EJ Thomas Hall

by Lisa Craig
January 20, 2016
EJ Thomas Hall - University of Akron
198 Hill Street
Akron, OH 44325-0501
(330) 972-7570
Bobby Wesner, artistic director of Neos Dance Theatre, sits down in Starbucks after rehearsal, giddy that he will be able to have an actual office, and not have to work out of coffee shops. “This is my office,” he says as he tilted his head towards a satchel by his feet. “I’ve been working this way for almost 7 years.” It’s a sturdy satchel for Wesner—it’s been at his side in Mansfield, Ashland, Findlay, Oberlin, Cleveland and Akron.

Wesner can now call EJ Thomas his dance company’s headquarters, thanks to an agreement with The University of Akron (UA) and Neos Dance Theatre as part of the University’s ongoing search for adventure and positive collaboration. With an arts organization on campus full-time, opportunities abound to provide students from across disciplines, not just Fine Arts, with experiential learning opportunities – integrated marketing, education, non-profit administration, law, exercise science, public relations – in areas like creating performance, entrepreneurship and business management.

“This collaboration will expand opportunities for our students across campus to experience civic and entrepreneurial engagement under the guidance of our new EXL Center,” said Lawrence Burns, vice president of advancement at UA. “The full-time presence of Neos Dance Theatre on campus will also create deeper connections between our university and the Akron community.”

When talking about launching a business, Wesner sounds like thousands of entrepreneurs. As the company co-founder, he feels a kinship with other start-ups that bloom on the UA campus because they face many of the same entrepreneurial challenges – artists, too, are risk takers. The dance company is a small not-for-profit entity, and Wesner has as much to learn about fundraising, social media marketing, human resources, Board relations, trademarking, and keeping payroll records as any other business does. “I was on my own for three years, doing it all with my partner and wife, before I could even hire help. I was a start-up and there is so much potential to grow – I just need the resources, ” proclaims Wesner. Students and faculty from a wide range of specialties will be a major source to him.

Wesner, his wife Brooke (co-founder and dancer), and the dancers of Neos have enjoyed a relationship with UA for years, opening up their rehearsals, teaching Master Classes, choreographing student productions, and performing in Guzetta Hall. A stronger connection with the Akron community is a driver for Wesner.

“Being on campus in downtown Akron, close to the growing arts scene, is exciting,” he says.

Neos Dance Theatre has a permanent dance studio in Mansfield and relationships with multiple collaborators in each of the communities it serves. The Renaissance Theatre (Mansfield), Findlay Academy of Ballet, Oberlin College, The University of Akron, individual and community based organizations have each added steadiness to the work that Neos Dance Theatre creates. Neos is a frequent recipient of grants from Knight Foundation and Akron Community Foundation, and past community partnerships have included the popular Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival.

The University of Akron (UA), Ohio’s Polytechnic University, is the region’s most influential public research university, contributing to the resurgence of the local economy, providing a highly skilled workforce, and known for an innovative approach to higher education. With nearly 26,000 students and more than 300 associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate and law degree programs, UA offers career-focused and experiential learning that defines the polytechnic approach to education. From polymers and psychology, to engineering and integrated marketing communications, to education and choreography, UA brings together various disciplines in ways that provide students with life-long skills, internships and co-ops, opportunities for academic research, study abroad, on-campus student employment and service projects designed for diverse groups of learners, including full-time, part-time and on-line students, veterans, and adults returning to the classroom.

Neos Dance Theatre is a company made up of young artists who are classically trained in ballet and passionate about new and contemporary dance. Its mission is to advance dance related education by student training, intensive summer study, and master classes; raise awareness of the dance arts; culturally enrich Northern Ohio through performance of high quality dance by obtaining and presenting the widest range of repertoire possible.
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