Image courtesy of Adriana Foreman
Leslie Parker is a dance artist, director, improviser, and performer born in the traditional homeland of Indigenous people, mostly the Dakhóta and Ojibwe people, also known as the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
Parker's earlier beginnings of informal training began with community activists who founded the Lou Wiley High Steppers (Rhythm & Drill team); and founders of the Rainbow Children's Theatre Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. Growing up in the St. Paul Rondo community rooted her in socially engaged art and motivated her research of dance forms of the Sene-Gambian region, Guinea, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire. Her upbringing in the Rondo community led to cultivating multiple home art bases in Brooklyn, NY and St. Paul, MN. Parker holds a BFA from Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance, a MFA in Dance from Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts and the Dresden Frankfurt Company in Frankfurt, Germany. She also studied Senegalese dance forms at the Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor de Dakar.
As a dance creative, she highlights unique individual contributions, digs into collective memory to engage with the world more imaginatively and embodies an aesthetic that encompasses an organic physical/movement hybrid influenced by the Black and African Diaspora: Traditional W. African, Black/African American vernacular/social dance, Improvisation, and Contemporary/Modern technique derived from and exchanged across multiple continents. She has received a 2017 Bessie award for Outstanding performer as part of Skeleton Architecture, a 2022 McKnight Fellowship for Choreographers, and is a Jerome Artist Fellow 2019 - 2021.
Parker initiated Leslie Parker Dance Project, LLC as a means to experience dance art more intuitively. As an educator, she led and facilitated classes as a guest assistant professor at Carleton College, a lecturer at University of Minnesota and as a guest artist instructor at various institutions in the US. Her most recent multi-year work, Call to Remember, is rooted, researched, and performed through residencies, stage performances and workshops across the US, including, Minneapolis, MN, at Walker Art Center, Pillsbury House Theatre, and Pangea World Theatre, San Francisco, CA, at CounterPulse, New York, New York at Danspace Project, Tallahassee, FL, at Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, and Philadelphia, PA, at BOOM. Call to Remember and latest iteration, Divination Tools: imagine home is funded by National Dance Project/nefa, National Performance Network Creation Fund, National Performance Development Fund and National Performance Network Community Engagement Fund, Minnesota Regional Arts Council and Minnesota State Arts Board.
Organizing, Collaborating, Performance
As an organizer, Leslie Parker initiated "Moving Dialogue for Non Violence" - a platform that uses dance art as a catalyst for social change and empowerment in partnership with CAMBA at Broadway House Women's Shelter in Brooklyn, NY.
As a dance collaborator, she is a member of the collective, Skeleton Architecture - curated by Eva Yaa Asentwaa for Danspace Project's Platform 2016: skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds; she worked with mentor Laurie Carlos and was presented at Late Nite Series, "non english speaking spoken here" curated by Laurie Carlos and E.G. Bailey at Pillsbury House + Theater. Her works have also been presented by Pangea World Theatre, Pillsbury House + Theater, Center for Performance Research's,' Fall Movement Series', David Parker's, 'Soaking WET '(West End Theater) Series, New Dance Alliance's, 'Performance Mix Festival29', New York Live Arts' Fresh Tracks 2013-14 Artist in Residence, a collaboration with Nia Love’s Let The Eagles Scream at Dance Theater Workshop's Studio Series, HarlemStage's EMoves13, WOW Café Theater, Movement Research at Judson Church, Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center's 'PEEKS' and 38th annual Souls of our Feet: People of Color dance festival, The Painted Bride Arts Center, and Women’s Roseville Correctional Facility.
Her professional dance performance archive includes works by Professor Nii Yartey of Ghana University, Dr. Kariamu Welsh of Kariamu & Company: Traditions, The Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble, Reggie Wilson’s Fist and Heel performance group, Tania Isaac Dance, Errol Grimes, Wendy Jehlen's Anikaya Dance Company, Patricia Brown of Spirit of Ashe Dance ensemble, Morris Johnson Jr., Ron Brown, Uri Sands, Sundance Multiple Performing Arts Company, Marlies Yearby and Rosy Simas Danse.
Recognitions & Acknowledgements
McKnight Choreographer Fellowship (2022)
National Dance Project (2021)
National Performance Network Community Engagement Fund (2021)
National Performance Network Storytelling & Documentation fund (2021)
Jerome Hill Foundation Artist Fellow (2019-2021)
National Performance Network Development Fund (2020)
Outstanding Performance Bessie Award (2017)