C. Nicholas Johnson’s career in movement arts began in 1977 with a parallel interest in both mime theatre and dance. His initial introduction to the mime theatre began with Gregg Goldston in 1977 and a relationship was forged that has lasted a lifetime. This partnership, with Deborah Wasserman, launched both a summer school in 1980 (teaching together for 25 years) - the Goldston School for Mimes in Gambier Ohio, and a touring company in 1984 - The Invisible People Mime Theatre. Under the passionate leadership and vision of Goldston, a school with a strong American identity was born and a dynamic emerged that blended the talents of the faculty, the guest artists and the artists that trained during these summer residencies. During this era, numerous guest teacher residencies with Marcel Marceau and Stefan Niedzialkowski developed their voice as American mimes by providing powerful, professional training and a strong foundation in classical mime. The school became a creative process that would transform all the artists who participated in the experience, launching numerous careers, impacting performing artists from around the globe.
Johnson began his training in dance, also in 1977, with Joan Woodbury at the University of Utah where he just completed two undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English. Johnson kept training with Goldston during this period and created a young mime troupe with Diana Wagman and Stephen Blakeslee, Ménage a Mime. Moving to New York City in 1980, Johnson continued to train in dance with Frank Hatchett, Richard Levi, and Ron De Marco. He also continued his parallel training with renowned Polish mime director/performer, Stefan Niedzialkowski and became a company member of Niedzialkowski’s New York company Mimedance Theatre, performing in New York from 1979-1982. During the same time at the School for Mimes in Ohio, Johnson began to fuse his eclectic training into an artistic vision of choreography that reflects both mime and dance.
In 1990 Johnson developed Alithea Creations, a company dedicated to the production of single discipline and multidisciplinary performances in mime theatre. Recognizing the need for a strong identity in American mime theatre, Johnson began to create new works and re-stage former company pieces that would later become the touring repertory for the Alithea Mime Theatre, a performing company that would highlight his group and solo choreography. His relationship with his partner and now wife, Sabrina Vasquez, would be a life long collaboration that has birthed many dance, mime, and theatrical projects with Vasquez as Co-Artistic Director of Alithea’s many diverse creative endeavors.
Moving to Tucson, Arizona in 1987, Nick earned his MFA degree in Dance/Drama at the University of Arizona, training in Dance with John Wilson, Douglas Nielsen, Jory Hancock, and Melissa Lowe. In 1994, after completing the MFA, further blending of the arts occurred when Johnson, working closely with his film mentor and Director of Photography - Michael Rae, premiered his production Seg way, a multi-disciplinary performance combining 16mm film with mime, dance and original music. After re-staging, the production was introduced to Chicago audiences at the Ruth Page Theater in 1996. In 1997, Alithea Mime Theatre performed his repertory works at the Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago.
Johnson moved to Wichita, Kansas to become Director of Dance at Wichita State University teaching both mime and dance. He received a 1998 Kansas Arts Commission Fellowship for his multidisciplinary vision. Fusing mime theatre, dance and film, he also placed 1st and 3rd in the 1998 Kan Film Festival for the experimental Seg way films and won 1st place in the Wichita National Short Film Competition 2002. Simultaneously, Johnson, Vasquez and fellow faculty, Denise Celestin created the Wichita Contemporary Dance Theatre(WCDT), a student touring company drawing from the immense talent of students completing degrees in the WSU School of Performing Arts Dance Program.
As Artistic Director of The Alithea Mime Theatre, the company now identified as a professional company in residence at Wichita State University, Johnson and Sabrina Vasquez have toured Alithea to the International Mime Art Festival, Warsaw, Poland, in May 1999, 2000 and 2009, the First International Mime and Physical Theatre Festival in the Caribbean, San Juan, Puerto Rico, in May 2001, and the China Shanghai International Arts Festival 2004. The company was invited to perform Angels’ Rising at the United Nations in 2006, a highlight in Johnson’s career. Alithea choreography, combining with WCDT tours, have also been performed in Taiwan-China, Colima-Mexico, and Aviano-Italy.
Further exploration of interdisciplinary theatrical projects combining movement with film and stage led to the creation of numerous children's theatre productions during residencies at the Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, Cave Creek, Arizona. Working closely with Evelyn Holbrook to provide creative self-expression to young people, Johnson, with Vasquez, created The Nickracker in 1996, Alice in 2000 and 2003, A Midsummer's Nightmare in 2004, Once Upon a Planet in 2005, Symphony of Silence in 2006, Cinderella in 2007, Don Quixote in 2008,The Odyssey in 2009, NOW! in 2011 and Carnival of the Animals in 2012.
Pursuing a vision of innovation, Johnson, collaborating with Vasquez and Denise Celestin in 2010, wrote and directed a new multidisciplinary production, The Wiyos of Oz, performed by WCDT. The performance premiered at Wichita State University combining film and dance theatre with the live music of the Wiyos in an original re-telling of the familiar Kansan story. The production toured Kansas performing in Ft Hays, Pittsburg and concluded at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre.
In 2015, Johnson, collaborating with dance faculty choreographers Vasquez, Celestin and Cheyla Chandler, wrote and directed Brave New World, an onsite theatrical production performed in four locations on the WSU campus. This experiment in immersive theatre began in the swimming pool of the WSU Heskett Center, walked the audience to one indoor and two outdoor locations, and returned to the pool for the final scene. Celebrated for its innovation, the production performed four evenings and captured the attention of both the campus and Wichita community.
Johnson creates original works and teaches each semester for the WSU Dance Program, offers master classes in mime theatre, performs with Arts Partners for elementary and middle schools with his daughter Zoe (his favorite performances) and presents national touring dance companies for the College of Fine Arts Connoisseur Series.
Sabrina Vasquez began training in Tucson, Arizona, where her early performance experience was with Arizona Dance Theatre under the artistic direction of Jean Paul Comelin as an apprentice. While at the University of Arizona she performed the modern, ballet, jazz, and mime theatre works of Douglas Nielsen, Jory Hancock, Melissa Lowe, Susan Quinn Williams and Nick Johnson. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago hired Sabrina in 1995 as a member where she performed the works of Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suites, Step out of Love by Margo Sappington and Daniel Ezralow's Read my Hips. During her years in Chicago, she also performed with the James Kelly Choreography Project, Chicago Tribune Charities Nutcracker choreographed by Ruth Page, under the direction of Larry Longand Ballet Theatre of Chicago. Since her arrival to Wichita, Ms. Vasquez has performed with Music Theatre Wichita in Kismet and choreographed Chicago for the Crown Uptown Theatre. While at Wichita State University, she has collaborated with WSU Opera\Musical Theatre on the productions of Ruddigore, Candide. The Desert Song and Pippin, which was an alternate for the 2005 ACTF Kennedy Center Festival. In 2007 she received an Individual Artist Fellowship Award for Choreography from the Kansas Arts Commission and most recently was the recipient of the Dorothy Johansen Hauck Faculty Fellow in Dance and Musical Theatre in 2012.
Sabrina Vasquez is currently an instructor at Wichita State University, Associate Artistic Director of Wichita Contemporary Dance Theatre and Associate Artistic Director of Alithea Mime Theatre with her husband of 15 years Nick Johnson. Her dance choreography has been seen nationally and Internationally with WCDT, which toured Kansas with Wiyos of Oz and repertory concerts to Taiwan - China, Colima – Mexico and Aviano - Italy. Alithea Mime Theatre has toured to the International Mime Art Festival, Warsaw - Poland, in May 1999, 2000 and August 2009, The First International Mime and Physical Theatre Festival in the Caribbean, San Juan - Puerto Rico, in May 2001, the 2005 Shanghai International Arts Festival and New York City at the United Nations in 2006.