Dancer-choreographer and writer, Leslie Friedman has been praised by critics and audiences on four continents. Honors include the Dean Goodman Choice Award for Best Solo Performance and the Selma Jeanne Cohen Award for International Dance Scholarship–the first ever given. In 2017, Sangam Arts honored her for being a Pioneer of World Dance in recognition of her extensive world wide performance tours and her dedication to presenting dances of many traditions in the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley of which she is Founder and Artistic Director. She is the recipient of two Fulbrights: the Fulbright Lectureship to India, and the Fulbright Senior Lectureship to Bulgaria
Leslie’s career includes a long list of “Firsts:” First American dancer to perform, choreograph and teach in China with sponsorship of the US State Dept. and the Chinese national ballet academies; First American artist to perform in public in Moscow and Leningrad with joint US/USSR sponsorship after a 14-year suspension of cultural exchanges; First American to perform and teach with official US/host government sponsorship in Spain, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Egypt, Tunisia, Sri Lanka and others. Her performances were cheered by audiences and critics alike; she was invited back to perform, choreograph, and teach in each locale. She has also performed to great acclaim in Canada, England, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Monaco, Scotland.
She performed extensively throughout India while there as a Fulbright Lecturer. In 1997, she was the only American to perform in the International Baltic Ballet Festival, in Riga, Latvia, along with the Royal Swedish, Royal Danish, Bolshoi, and Maryinsky (Kirov) Ballets.
She was awarded the Fulbright Senior Lectureship to create a new theater/dance work for the National Academy of Theater & Film, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Leslie Friedman’s choreography has been set on companies in China, England, Poland, Romania, South Korea, as well as in the US.
Her extensive tours in the US include performances of HEROIC, BELOVED her program of dances about women, in five states at multiple universities and arts centers in each state.
She was nominated for the Isadora Duncan Awards in Outstanding Solo Performance and in Choreography for a Full Program (BAT TALES).
She created and produced the first Holidays concert which honors the many diverse holidays which come near the end of the calendar year. She choreographed, wrote, and danced in this groundbreaking production which was produced annually in San Francisco and other Northern Californian cities beginning in 1994.
She created and produced the first concert to honor Women’s History Month with dances about historic women – Harriet Tubman, Clara Schumann, the Bronte Sisters, and more – with music or text by women.
She created and produced The Gold Rush! a program including music popular in the Gold Rush era, projections of archival photographs and paintings depicting life in the Gold Rush, narrations taken from letters written in the mining fields, costumes of the era, and original dances. This was a featured program for San Francisco’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Gold Rush. Performed for the general public, it has served as an entertaining educational centerpiece for schools from San Jose to Marin County.
She has performed under the direction of Jennifer Muller, Kathy Posin, Cliff Keuter, Shela Xoregos in their own work.
Her writing on history and the arts has been published in the US, France, India, and Poland. Her stories and poetry are performed as part of dance/theater productions. Her play, The Panel, won recognition awards in the Marin Festival of One Acts in categories of Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Play. The Panel became the first act of the full length play, The Arts Community. Her new book, The Dancer’s Garden, was published in May, 2019. Stories from the Street will publish her poetry, August, 2019. She is co-editor of The Hedgehog, the international arts review. Please visit Hedgehog Highlights on this site.
Leslie’s serious dance training began at age eight, directed by Madame Victoria Cassan, an Englishwoman who had been a soloist in Anna Pavlova’s legendary touring company. As an adult, Leslie studied at the Alvin Ailey School in New York, where she was offered a scholarship, at the Martha Graham School, which invited her to its professional training class, and with Margaret Jenkins and Gus Solomons, Jr. (Cunningham technique). She was selected to work with Merce Cunningham to learn video for dance.
Her service to the field of dance includes National Endowment for the Arts site visitor; Isadora Duncan awards panelist( first year of awards) ; Theatre Bay Area CA$H grant panelist. She was President of the Board of Directors of Dance Bay Area, the largest service organization for dance, Northern California.
In 2012, she founded the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley. The Festival offers open master classes in a variety of movement practices, presents concerts of premiere works, and conducts the annual Choreography Competition. The Awardees of the competition present their winning work in the Festival Concerts. Through the years, IDF@SV has presented Afro-Haitian, Circus art, Irish, Polish, Samba, Salsa, several forms of classical Indian dance, classical Chinese, Korean and tap, ballet, Pilates, contemporary dance.
Leslie has taught modern dance, improvisation & composition, and contemporary ballet: Reed College; Washington University in St. Louis; University of Michigan; Ballet Rambert, London; Conservatory of Dance, Tunis; Royal Conservatory, Madrid; National Ballet of Hungary; the three national ballets of China, and many other national academies and schools around the world. Please contact The Lively Foundation for more details.
In an earlier life, Leslie earned a Ph.D., in British History, at Stanford and taught there and at Vassar, her alma mater, and Case Western Reserve University before leaving her tenure track position in academia to return to dance.