MOVERS & SHAPERS:
Podcast No.12 – LESLIE ANDERSON-BRASWELL
Release Date: November 3, 2015
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ABOUT LESLIE ANDERSON-BRASWELL: BALLET INSTRUCTOR
In 1979, Leslie was the first dance teacher hired by Dr. Harry Clark, founding principal, and Dr. Marilyn Barnett, first Dance Department Chair to teach ballet at the newly forming, Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, originally located in Homewood, the neighborhood where she grew up. Currently, CAPA 6-12, is located prominently in downtown Pittsburgh’s growing cultural district, Leslie and has been a member of the Dance Department faculty for 36 years, where she has inspired a generations of aspiring dancers. In 1980, Leslie was selected to serve as the second artistic director of the well established, professional performing group in the Black tradition of dance, Pittsburgh Black Theater Dance Ensemble, by artistic director/ founder, the late Bob Johnson, a position she held until the company folded in 1983. Equally prominent teaching credits include Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy of Musical Theater, where Leslie taught for 16 years with Buddy Thompson, with whom she shares a kinship and bond, nurtured in the early years of the high school, to inspire excellence and greatness in every serious student of dance that crossed their paths, which is a shared on-going commitment. As a result of working together at the Academy, many former students have reached the pinnacle of success in their artistic careers; they include McArthur Genius Recipient, choreographer/ dance artist Kyle Abraham, “Kinky Boots” star and Tony Award Recipient, Billy Porter, Jason McDole, former dance artist with the David Parson and Lar Lubovitch dance companies, Quela Clancy, principal dancer and instructor with Lula Washington Dance Company, Brandon Cowles, former dance artist with the Merce Cunningham Company, Erin Carlisle-Norton, choreographer/ founder/ artistic director, The Moving Architects, Sarrah Strimmel, Broadway dancer/ actress/ singer, Courtney Mazza-Lopez, Broadway dancer/ actress/ singer, Lauren Morelli, Orange is the New Black, writer, to mention a few.
Throughout the years, Leslie has been a guest teacher for many schools, dance organizations and professional dance companies throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Leslie has served as a guest master class teacher for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Philadanco Dance Company, International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference, Dance Masters of America (PA Chapter), Checchetti Ballet Council (PA Chapter), Lee’s School of Dance, Roger’s School of Dance, Dance Arts Academy. Leslie served as principal ballet teacher and consultant for the former August Wilson Dance Ensemble in Pittsburgh, PA., for founder and artistic director, Greer A. Reed, whom Leslie has proudly mentored throughout her successful journey and career in dance. Greer A. Reed’s AWDE was named, “25 to Watch in 2012” by Dance Magazine. August, of 2012, during the 5th annual, RDI, Reed Dance Intensive, Founder/ Director, gave the 1st annual award, named in honor of Leslie, The Brazzy Award, for her lifetime achievement in providing outstanding excellence in dance education and mentorship. Since 2012, the award has been given annually, presented during the concluding performance to two outstanding dance artist from the Pittsburgh area, selected by a panel of judges, headed by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dance Critic, Jane Vranish. Likewise, Leslie has been available for successful former student, Ayisha Morgan-Lee Smith, MAM, founder and director of HDAT, Hill Dance Academy Theater, a successful, innovative arts education institution, located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA. Through the years Leslie has been available for HDAT workshops, conferences, master classes and the annual HDAT Summer Intensive. Recently, Ayisha Morgan-Lee Smith and the HDAT organization honored Leslie with their 2015 Bold Vision Shona Sharif Award, for outstanding artistic excellence, at their 10th Anniversary, Diamond Gala Celebration. Leslie, Ayisha and HDAT were commended with an official letter from Charon Battles, of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, whom is a dear friend and someone that Leslie looked up to, as the only soloist, Black ballerina, in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. Charon commended Leslie as a Pittsburgh legend in dance for the life-long love,commitment and promotion of the art of dance. Leslie is eternally grateful for Charon’s acknowledgement of her work.
Life long mentor and consultant, the late Jeraldyne Blunden, Founder/ Director of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, constantly encouraged and urged Leslie to continually grow and share the wealth of accumulated knowledge. As a result, throughout the years, Leslie has been commissioned for choreographic works for a variety of organizations, dance companies, dance schools and individuals. Leslie received a choreography fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, National Association of Regional Ballet Choreographic Development Workshop/ Phyllis Lamhut, Director, and the Ann Vachon Choreographic Development Workshop. Leslie was commissioned for choreography for the AWDE/ Pittsburgh Symphony Collaboration, and in the past has choreographed for several northeastern performing arts groups, as well as an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. She was also a recipient of a choreography fellowships from the Heinz Endowment, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Ohio Council on the Arts. In 1986 Leslie was awarded an Outstanding Distinguished Teacher Award, for 1st place female dance award recipient, Janeen Elliott, of the Young Arts Scholarship Program, presented at the White House by President Ronald Reagan. She was honored with an Outstanding Woman of America Award in 1982, and, Outstanding Artist Award from the Pittsburgh’s Greater Legacy Council, in celebration of African-American Artists.
PODCAST INTERVIEW LINKS
Pittsburgh Ballet TheaterNicolas Petrov
Point Park College
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton
Intro Music: “Singing Distance” by Elijah Aaron