Leanne King about her life, work and love for dance

September 6, 2012

Dancer, teacher and choreographer LEANNE KING has been teaching Jazz at Danceworks for more than 12 years. Her much-in-demand classes attest to her talent and charisma and she is undoubtedly greatly valued here.

Leanne has been teaching contemporary technique classes at the Central School of Ballet for 20 years where she recently took on the full-time role of Course Development Coordinator. Prior to this full time role she taught contemporary technique at the Royal Ballet School for many years and now recognises many of the top stars now performing on the Opera House stage.  In addition she has worked at Arts Educational London, the Royal Academy of Dance as well as numerous one-off projects, choreography for TV; co-choreographer and rehearsal director for film; fashion shows and courses nationally and internationally.

We asked Leanne to tell us about her background:

“I began dancing at the age of 3yrs, due to the fact that I was such a shy child, it was a way to try and get me mixing with children my own age, of course I’m still as shy really!

My earliest classes were baby ballet and tap but as the years passed I added more styles to my list including my first go at contemporary dance at the age of 14yrs, this was when I knew I’d found my real love. At 18 I left home to train full time in London at the Arts Educational London School, a school better known now for its Musical Theatre training but at the time there was a great dancer’s course that allowed me to indulge my passion of contemporary dance whilst learning newer skills such as Jazz dance.

During my time at Arts Ed I began to spend more time creating work and got one of my works presented at a local theatre shortly followed by another work and shown at an arts festival…this was what I wanted to do choreograph so that’s just what I did. Performing in my own works and with other small companies, working alone and in collaboration, but as all whilst trying to get different projects off the ground I was asked by one of my teachers to cover classes for her and the rest as they say is history.

Teaching allowed me to afford to present my choreographic projects but then I actually found that I enjoyed the work, in fact performing myself got set aside as the teaching took off. I then got taken under the wing of another former teacher who mentored me over a number of years and allowed me

to learn good teaching practice whilst working alongside her in one of the top ballet schools. To this day I continue to teach Graham based technique both nationally and internationally with my jazz teaching as a good counter balance to the deeply emotional and highly technical Graham work.”

If you would like to attend one of Leanne’s three classes a week at Danceworks, you will be interested to see her descriptions of them:

Beginner/General level Jazz on Tuesday and Wednesday Evenings

“These classes include a general body warm-up from head to toe. The class is conducted in parallel position and does not move into technically turned out exercises; this allows a complete beginner to approach the class safely and not cause injury. The warm-up includes Isolations of the head/shoulders/ribs and hips; swings and gentle standing stretches and footwork. It is better to do this class in soft-soled shoes and not trainers as it is important that you are able to articulate and use your feet fully.

The class always includes floor based strengthening exercises and stretches. This is not a cardio-based warm-up but will move you enough to get the blood flowing and elevate the pulse.

The standing work can include the more technically involved kick or pirouette exercises before the routine begins.

The warm-up is choreographed and is kept for a substantial amount of time, allowing complete beginners to take their time in learning and not have to worry about facing new work each week; however the general level is that the work is taught at speed!

A new routine is taught on a weekly basis and the style can vary but generally the music is jazz funk/electro-swing/speak easy jazz; quirky and often unknown tracks with the occasional pop track thrown in for good measure.

This class is for fun, we don’t take ourselves too seriously even though everyone works hard, there is always a lot of laughing and fun and the atmosphere is friendly and encouraging to all.


Intermediate Jazz Thursday evenings – this class is technically two big jumps up from the beginner/general class and could be called Pre-Advanced. This class is for those students that have had a background in dance and already have a sound understanding of basic ballet technique. The warm-up shifts between parallel and turn-out and alongside the general head to toe warm-up and isolations I also include plie; tendu; and adage as well as parallel foot work and kicks. This class attracts all ages and levels of dancer, but it is important that a beginner should attend ballet classes before making the transition from beginner/general class to the intermediate.

The warm-up also includes floor based strengthening and stretching exercise and although not a cardio- based warm-up it will definitely push your muscles very hard indeed.

The warm-up is choreographed and is kept for a substantial amount of time and should be conducted in soft soled shoes or bare feet

The travelling work can include turns; pirouettes; kicks; jumps in any combination and these are changed on a weekly basis.

The routine will always be technically demanding and is kept and added to over a two week period. The music is jazz funk in heaps but I also go for the more lyrical tracks as they are great to include a more contemporary style to the work.

These classes are also fun and there is generally much laughing but the demands I impose on my dancers are high. Come if you are prepared to work and be rewarded!”

Which dancers and choreographers do you admire?

“Sylvia Guilliem for her ability to cross genres of dance and be beautiful at whatever she does. Whilst a naturally gifted dancer she also works so so hard and pushes the boundaries.

Akram Khan as a dancer and choreographer- his work with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in Zero Degrees is outstanding and his collaboration with the actress Juliette Binoche was inspiring.”

And favourite dance movies/performances?

A performance that sticks in my mind from many years ago is;

Lindsay Kemps Cinderella: it was publicised as a ‘Gothic Operetta’ – The performance pushed boundaries and was the best of so many aspects of theatre, classical ballet, contemporary dance ,opera, mime and even pantomime it was so brilliantly realised that it’s still fresh in my mind.


Dance film has to be Cabaret- Bob Fosse choreography and Liza Mineli at her best what a brilliant combination- Sweet Charity isn’t far behind


Let’s not forget Liza Mineli’s performance at Kenwood last summer – what a star!

And finally your current playlist?

Lights Went Out – Alice Russell

The Masterplan –Diana Brown & Barrie K Sharpe (Classic Acid Jazz)

Big bad Handsome Man – Imelda May 

Let Me Go  – Maverick Sabre

L.O.V.E. –VV Brown or Tightrope Janelle Monae