LEONORA STAPLETON – April 1963 – October 2021
This month marks the first anniversary of Leonora Stapleton’s death. I met Leonora in the hallways of the Ailey School where we both trained. Our mutual passion for dance excellence and community well-being meant that over the decades of our careers our paths would lovingly cross; but none so dramatically than in 2009 at Leeds Kirkgate Market, where after more than a decade of not seeing each other our paths collided summoning joyful tears and screams that halted for a time the Saturday morning hustle and bustle of the market place. I had moved to Leeds two weeks earlier to pursue my PhD at the University of Leeds. Citing a need to be closer to family and community, Leonora had returned home to Leeds in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks.
Leonora’s career included: Dance Theater of Harlem; Donald Byrd, The Group; Lion King, On Broadway; and Tarzan in Amsterdam and Germany – where she served as Associate Choreographer. In 2019, she founded the organization, Be Body Aware to encourage the use of dance and exercise for overall well-being. Leonora understood the power to dance to transform and heal. In her work she deployed to build community, engage in challenging discussions on topics such as racism, sexism, social inequities, and disease. She was a dedicated mentor to young dancers of diverse race and ethnicities, and was committed to community dance. Leonora credited Jan Hambley, the Director of the Mara Ya Pili Community Dance Project for her steadfast belief in her talent and potential. Additionally, Leonora carried on this legacy through her own volunteer community work, teaching and mentoring young dancers under her organization Jambala Dance Network.
In 2022, I dedicated select mentoring, workshops, and talks to Leonora’s passionate life.
Bridgewater State University – MA
African Diaspora Dance: Healing Resistance and World-making in the 21st Century
The Place/London Contemporary Dance School, UK
Decolonising an Institution
Mentoring and Workshops
February – July 2022
Dance Studies Association 2022 Annual Conference,
Vancouver, British Columbia
Myths of resilience and perennial victims: Meditation on Dancing beyond the cultural imagination – embracing pleasure, joy, and thriving as activism, Dancing African/African Diaspora Girls and Women