Highlights: Hula-hoopers bring flow arts to The Engine Room

  • Flow artists Nikki Royce, of White River Junction, Vt., left, and Julie Monroe, of North Haverhill, N.H., are to perform at the hip-hop/electronica dance at The Engine Room in White River Junction on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, left, and flex dancer Drew Dollaz perform in "The Just and The Blind" Thursday evening at Dartmouth College's Hopkins Center for the Arts. See 'Best bets' for more information. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/15/2020 6:08:50 PM
Modified: 1/16/2020 9:51:18 PM

One will dress for outer space, the other for the Wild West, while spinning hula hoops at Friday night’s “Aliens vs. Cowboys” dance at The Engine Room, in White River Junction.

Beyond costuming, Nikki Royce and Julie Monroe won’t know exactly how they’ll perform until the host DJs crank up the hip-hop and the electronic dance music.

“We don’t really ever choreograph anything,” Monroe, 29, of North Haverhill, said on Monday afternoon. “It’s always improvised.”

Welcome to the world of flow art, in which performers use dance, juggling, fire-spinning and other forms of object manipulation to express whatever inspiration is running through them in the moment.

“It’s almost a Taoist thing,” Royce, 37, of White River Junction, said in a separate conversation on Monday. “You go into a meditative state, and what comes out, comes out.”

While Royce describes flow art in general and hula-hooping in particular as “just my hobby that got out of control,” Monroe practices it as an avocation that she can blend with her day job as a special-education paraprofessional with the Haverhill Cooperative Middle School.

“It gets the kids’ hand-eye coordination going,” said Monroe, a Haverhill native. “And it shows them if you persevere at something that seems difficult, you can really take off.”

Monroe’s parallel career as a performance artist — her stage name is Julie Elizabeth — took off after she added hula-hooping to a repertoire that started with playing characters in skits, a la Rusty DeWees’ “The Logger,” at events ranging from music festivals to private parties. In May 2014, Monroe ordered her first professional-grade hula hoop and, after some practice, started performing as well as teaching an art form that she never imagined growing up.

“I never even did sports, or chorus or dance or anything like that,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nurse when I grew up. That’s what I really wanted. Then one day I tried to take the stitches out on my dog after an operation, and I felt sick.

“That’s when I realized that medicine wasn’t an option.”

For Royce, flow art at first presented itself as a way “to get into shape.

“I saw some girl doing it at a party, and I thought it was the coolest thing,” she recalled. “I started with a hula hoop from a department store. Then four or five years ago, I was looking for a professional hula hoop, and a mutual friend hooked me up with Julie. I became obsessed with it.”

Obsessed, though not to the point of making a career out of it.

“Julie’s a rock star in the hula-hoop world,” Royce said. “Every time I see her, I go, ‘Wow: I wish I could be as good as her some day.’ She goes all over the country, to events like Burning Man. I could never do it for a living. I have children, and my day job prevents me from doing much out of the area.

“And mostly, for me it’s for fun. As soon as it becomes a job, it’s not the same.”

Rather, between gigs, Royce makes hula-hooping part of her day job as coordinator of youth programs for the nonprofit Second Growth.

“The kids are really receptive to it,” she said, adding that they particularly light up when she tells them that she performs fire-spinning in some of her flow-art gigs with Monroe.

Just don’t count on the duo to spin hoops aflame on Friday night, as they sometimes do for collaborations at venues with more spacious quarters.

“I don’t think the people at The Engine Room would go for that,” Royce said.

Nikki Royce and Julie Elizabeth perform during the “Aliens vs. Cowboys” dance at The Engine Room in White River Junction, on Friday night at 8. Cover charge $5; open to ages 21 and older.

Best bets

Violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain, storyteller Marc Bamuthi Joseph and flex-dancer Drew Dollaz perform Roumain’s The Just and the Blind on Thursday night at 7:30 at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium. Chicago singer Stephanie Goldsmith joins the trio for this multi-media examination of racial profiling and mass incarceration. Admission $40.

■The Cantabile Women’s Chorus performs concerts, on the theme of “Words of Wisdom,” on Saturday afternoon at 3 at the Norwich Congregational Church, and Sunday afternoon at 3 at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon. The concerts mix poetry of Dickinson, Keats, Alcott, Shakespeare and Anne Frank with music of Bach, Mozart, Childs, Diemer, Arnesen and other composers. Admission at door, $5 to $15.

■Jazz pianist Sonny Saul plays new compositions with Upper Valley musicians on Sunday afternoon at 4, at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret. Joining him for the concert are bassists Bill Martin, Peter Concilio and Glendon Ingalls; drummers Pete Michelenie, Tim Gilmore and Mark van Gulden; flutists Kathleen Dolan and Al Wakefield; oboeist Sierra Winand, clarinetist Quincy Saul, saxophonist Katie Runde and singer Luette Saul. Admission $20.

■As part of Dartmouth College’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the Paddock Music Library in Hanover hosts a sing-in of anthems from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s on Wednesday night at 5:30. Free and open to all ages. Guitarists, fiddlers and players of other acoustic instruments are welcome.

■Hanover resident Irene Pletcher plays the title role next week in the Educational Theatre Collaborative’s production of the musical Annie at Plymouth State University’s Silver Center for the Arts in Plymouth, N.H. Upper Valley residents joining Pletcher onstage, for six performances from Wednesday night to Jan. 26, are Orford resident Michael Smyth as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Smyth’s daughter Molly as the orphan Tessie, and Plainfield’s Paige Falcone as another orphan.

For tickets ($15 to $39) and more information, visit plymouth.edu/silver-center/tickets or call 603-535-2787.

Theater/performance art

Auditions at Grange Theatre in South Pomfret on Thursday night at 6 and on Sunday afternoon at 2, for ArtisTree Community Arts Center production of Love, Loss and What I Wore. To schedule audition slot of 10 minutes, email Ashley Barrow at theatre@artistreevt.org. Auditioners are expected to prepare to read one monologue from the play.

■Auditions at Eclipse Grange Theatre on Thetford Hill, Thursday and Friday nights at 6:30, for Parish Players’ storytelling series on theme of “Hindsight is 20/20.” To propose stories and learn more about the series, which will run March 5 to 15, email Linda Neubelt at linda@lyme.com or Kay Morton at katherinemorton58@gmail.com.

King Lear, Northern Stage production, preview performances at Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction starting Wednesday night. Opens officially on Jan. 25, runs through Feb. 9. For tickets and more information visit northernstage.org or call 603-296-7000.


South Newbury, Vt., fiddler Patrick Ross, roots and Americana, Thursday night at 8 at Flying Goose Brew Pub and Grille in New London. Admission $20; reservations required.

■Folk and blues singer-guitarist Geoff Bartley, Friday night at 7 at Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse. Admission by donation.

■Pianist Michael Arnowitt and The ImproVisions Jazz Quintet, Friday night at 7:30 at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall. Admission $10 to $30.

■Anonymous Coffeehouse, performances at First Congregational Church of Lebanon on Friday night, at 7:30 by Chip and the Old Block (folk duo of Ford and Graham Daley), 8:15 by Oxford & Clark (Americana) and 9 by Unnamed Colors (art rock). Free.

■ Decato-Sanborn Project, roots, monthly Corinth Coffeehouse concert on Saturday night at 7 at Corinth Town Hall. Admission by donation to Corinth Fire Department.

■Guitarist Jay Doucette, folk/roots, Saturday night at 7 at Unitarian Universalist Church of Springfield, Vt. Free.

■ “A Musical Joke,” performances by Dartmouth College faculty and students of works by Mozart and Haydn, Sunday afternoon at 1 at Top of the Hop in Hanover. Free.


Martha Graham Dance Company, The EVE Project and Appalachian Spring, Friday night at 7:30, Saturday afternoon at 2 and Saturday night at 7:30, at Dartmouth College’s Moore Theater. Admission $30 to $40.

Bar and club circuit

Mad Hazard Band, jazz, bossa nova and blues, Thursday night at 5:30 at the Quechee Club’s Davidson’s Restaurant.

■Jennings & Macomber, Celtic folk and roots, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place restaurant in Orford; Rebecca Turmel, roots, blues and rock, Saturday night at 6.

■Guitarist Ted Mortimer and The Contraband, Thursday night at 7 at Windsor Station; Baked Shrimp, danceable funk and rock, Friday night at 9:30; Unbalanced, rock and pop covers, Saturday night at 9:30; Johnny O, rock, Tuesday night at 6.

■Automatic Slim, roots/Americana, Friday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

■Aardvark, electric mountain funk and rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon.

■Singer-songwriter Jim Yeager, Monday night at 6:30 at 506 on the River in Woodstock.

Open mics, jam sessions

Interplay Jazz & Arts’ monthly jam, Thursday night at 6:30 in Vermont Room at Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction. Free.

■Jim Yeager’s twice-monthly open mic, Thursday night at 7 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret. Free.

■Alec Currier’s weekly open-mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, 8 p.m. Thursday.

■Monthly all-comers jam for folk and traditional musicians, Sunday afternoon at 4 at Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon. Free.

■ Jakob Breitbach’s acoustic jam of roots music, Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Tom Masterson’s open mic, Tuesday nights at 7 at Colatina Exit in Bradford, Vt.

■Peter Meijer’s open mic, Wednesday nights at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304. Send entertainment news to highlights@vnews.com.

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