About Us

Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival was founded in 2010 as a way to share and celebrate the work of practicing contemporary dance artists and companies. Producers Melissa Mallinson and Nicole Gifford have more than twenty years of combined experience in producing dance events, choreographing, and performing their works in Chicago and throughout the Midwest.

Melissa Mallinson (producer) is the director of ology dance and has been active in the Chicago dance community as a performer, choreographer and producer since 2002. She performed with Khecari Dance Theater, the Kalamazoo Ballet, Ann Arbor Dance Works, TJ&Co, Marquez Dance Project, and many independent artists throughout the Midwest, and also as a guest artist with Berlin-based Compagnie Felix Ruckert and David Dorfman Dance. Melissa is a recipient of a 2004 CAAP grant for new choreography from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. Her work was presented by the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe, Around the Coyote, Dance Chicago, Ohio Dance Festival, Regional Dance America, Dance Union, and the National Congress of Carillonneurs. Melissa graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan, and also studied at the London Contemporary Dance School and Yorkshire Ballet Seminars. For four years Melissa worked in the events department at the Old Town School of Folk Music, serving on the production staff of the Chicago Folk & Roots Festival and producing World Dance Night there since 2005. She currently leads Old Town School's education outreach initiatives, providing in-depth arts education programs to more than 2500 Chicago Public School students.

Nicole Gifford (producer) is the Artistic Director of Nicole Gifford Dance and has been active in the Chicago dance community as a dancer, choreographer & producer since 1998. A graduate of Western Illinois University, she received her BAS in English, with minor degrees in Dance and Creative Writing. Nicole enjoys layering her choreographic expression with live music and poetry and focuses on incorporating live music into her dance, specifically jazz-fusion, for its improvisational element. Her work has been performed at many Chicago festivals including Around the Coyote, Dance Chicago, Full Circle, Rebound and Old Town School of Folk Music’s World Dance Night. Nicole has co-produced several dance concerts since 2005 at Ruth Page, The Galaxie and Hamlin Park Field House with Chicago artists: Marquez Dance Project, Jay-Son Dance Company and Core Project. She recently self produced NGD’s first full length concert, “MILES ELECTRIC”. Nicole was the recipient of a 2006 CAAP grant from the Illinois Arts Council as well as a recipient of the Dance Bridge Summer 2009 residency through The Chicago Cultural Center Department of Cultural Affairs. Nicole works full time teaching ballroom dance to adults at May I Have This Dance and through their youth program, Dancing with Class.

Sarah Lackner (technical director) is excited to return to the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival. A graduate of Smith College, Sarah has designed various dance and theater works around Chicago and abroad, most recently in Chicago for Perceptual Motion, Inc, Rodriguez Dance Theatre, and Innervation Dance Cooperative. She has also designed productions for Cristal Sabbagh, Cindy Brandle, Carole McCurdy, and Roosevelt University. Abroad, she designed productions in Glasgow, Scotland. Sarah also works as an electrician and stage manager around Chicago, most recently stage managing for the Grant Park Music Festival.