Laura E. Ellis Faculty Profile

Laura Elaine Ellis began training and performing in Los Angeles with the R’Wanda Lewis Afro-American Dance Company and the Young Saints Performing Arts Academy, a school founded by her grandparents Evelyn Freeman and Tommy Roberts.

Ms. Ellis attended Mills College and was a founding member of the Mills Repertory Company.   The company presented a number of successful concerts, performing works by artists such as Lucas Hoving, Betsy Kagan, Emily Keeler, Joan Lazarus and Kathleen McClintock.  After receiving her degree from Mills, Ms. Ellis began a non-stop career of performing, teaching, choreographing, and producing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ms. Ellis was a founding member of LAZARUS/Dance, performing as a principal dancer and soloist with the company for nine years. She has been guest artist with Pricilla Regalado, Duncan Macfarland and Dance Art Company, Purple Moon Dance Theater, Anne Bluethenthal Dancers, and Robert Moses’ Kin.    Presently, she tours nationally and internationally as a principal dancer and soloist with the award-winning Dimensions Dance Theater, directed by choreographer/mentor Deborah Brooks Vaughan.  As a member of this company, Ellis has worked with notable artists including Nikki Giovianni, Hugh Masekala, Stanley Jordan, John Santos, Omar Sosa, Donald McKayle, and Garth Fagen. In 2009, Ellis received the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a solo piece created by Ms. Vaughan; performed for Dimensions Dance Theater’s 35th Anniversary Concert.

Ms. Ellis’ love for dance and theater was nurtured by her family, so it is natural that she would have a deep commitment to the artistic enrichment of young people.  She has been involved with a number of arts and education programs.  At age 17, she pioneered a dance program for the Los Angeles Sickle Cell Disease Research Foundation’s Summer Arts Camp – she ran this successful program for 15 years.   She worked 8 years as a resident artist and choreographer for the San Francisco Arts Education Project. She served nine years on the faculty of Contra Costa College, working in the theater department choreographing and co-directing for the Young Actors’ Workshop.  She teaches dance technique and choreographs for the Musical Theater and Opera programs of  the acclaimed Young Musicians Program at the University of California, Berkeley,  She also serves on faculty for the Dance and Theater Departments at The Athenian School and California State University, East Bay – choreographing for Musical Theater, student and faculty dance concerts, and teaching technique in traditional African dance, jazz, modern, hip hop, tap and Musical Theater dance.      

Ms. Ellis’ choreographic career began over two decades ago when she presented her first work, A Sense of Losing, on the debut concert of Amaranth Dance Collective, a dance company she co-founded with five other dancers from the Mills College Repertory Company.   Ellis presented solo work in the Performance Alliance Dance Series, staged shows for various theater groups, and collaborated with other choreographers such as Emily Keeler, Deborah Vaughn, Anne Bluethenthal, Robert Moses, Robert Henry Johnson, and Nora Chipaumire.

Ellis has created numerous solo and ensemble works of note: When Strength Is My Weakness – nominated for an Isadora  Duncan Dance Award, Ellis was invited to perform this solo in the Los Angeles Prime Moves V Dance Series, and in Germany for the Dance for Tolerance International Dance Festival.  my poem – an ensemble work featuring a duet with Ellis and Robert Moses; Blood Spirit Flame – a reviewer wrote of this performance "Ellis has become a mesmerizing dancer…performing her solo Blood Spirit and Flame with commitment and passion." (Bay Guardian); Not Alone, Quilt Project: Pieces of Me – an ensemble piece featuring extraordinary dancers, Nora Chipaumire, Jane Schnorrenberg, Robert Henry Johnson, and collaborating artists, poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph and composer/musician Wayne Wallace. This project received major awards from the Creative Work Fund and the Irvine Foundation.  For Ellis’ most recent work, i that is we, she collaborated with poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, composer/musician Ajayi Jackson, and photographer Kimara Dixon.  This solo received the Theater Bay Area CA$H grant and was featured in three prominent Festivals: the Afro – Solo Festival, the Living Word Festival, and the LA Women’s Theater Festival.    

Ellis’ administrative contributions to dance and the arts include work as the Executive Director of The African & African American Performing Arts Coalition (AAAPAC). A San Francisco based, non-profit organization, AAAPAC was founded in 1995 by a collective of artists who were looking to create better performance opportunities for African and African American performing artists as well as produce shows that reflect the aesthetic and cultural representation of the African and African American experience.  As AAAPAC’s Executive and Development Director, Laura Elaine Ellis has co-produced successful events such as the Labor of Love Dance Series, The Quilt Project: Pieces of Me, and currentlythe Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now; receiving a Best of the Bay Award in 2009.   Funding awards for AAAPAC  projects include: The Creative Work Fund, The Irvine Foundation, SF Arts Commission, The San Francisco Foundation, Zellerbach Family Fund, The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and the Walter & Elise HAAS Fund.  Ms. Ellis is the Executive Director of the YS Scholarship Foundation, founded by her grandmother Evelyn Freeman Roberts in 1967.   Ellis serves on the Advisory Board for the SF Arts Education Project, Robert Moses’ Kin, and Steopology and serves on the Board of Directors for CounterPulse and Dance Art, Inc.

Teaching Experience
San Francisco Arts Education Project, SF, CA

  • Modern Technique, Musical Theater Choreography

Artist in Residency Program1989 - 2000

Contra Costa College, Contra Costa, CA

  • Modern, Ballet Technique, Choreography, Musical Theater

Young Actors Workshop, 1992 – 2001

California State University East Bay, Hayward, CA
Technique  Classes – General Education / Major Courses, Theatre & Dance, 1994 - 1995

  • Beginning Jazz, Intermediate Jazz ,1994 – present, scheduled for winter, 2012
  • Advanced Jazz, upper division, 1994 – 2010
  • Beginning Hip Hop, Intermediate Hip Hop, 1997 – present, scheduled for winter, 2012
  • Beginning African, 1998 – 1999
  • Beginning Tap, 2006 – present, scheduled for winter, 2012
  • Dance Ensemble, 2008 – 2009
  • Modern, 2009 – 2010

Lecture Courses - General Education/Major Courses, Theatre & Dance, Liberal Arts

  • Cultural Forms – upper division, 1996 – 2006; 2009
  • Musical Dance, 1998 – present; scheduled for winter, 2012
  • Dance Experience – upper division,  2001 – 2009
  • Exploring Creativity – cluster course ,2009 – 2011

co-taught w/ Anne-lise Ruesswig & Kimi Guthrie

  • Black Experience in Performance  - cluster course, 2010 – 2011

co-taught w/ Professor Rhoda Kaufman


The Athenian School, Danville, CA

  • Dance Technique, Choreography, Dance History, Musical Theater Dance, 1994 – present
  • Bay Area High School Dance Festival, 2008 - present

Special Faculty Assignments
Theater Productions – Theatre & Dance Department

  • Macbeth –  KCACTF Finalist  (choreographer)
  • Xtigone – KCACTF Commendation (choreographer)

Musical Theater Productions – Theatre & Dance Department

  • A Chorus Line (co-director/co-choreographer w/ Lecturer Kimi Guthrie)
  • Almond Eyes (choreographer)
  • BeeHive, Wiz, Godspell, Sophisticated Ladies , Chicago

Co-choreographer w/ Professor Darryl Jones

  • A Funny Happened On the Way to the Forum

Co-choreographer w/ Professor Marc Jacobs

Opera Productions – Music Department

  • Ahmad and the Night Visitors  (choreographer)

Guest Faculty

  • American College Dance Festival – Guest Teacher
  • Stanford University Dance Department – Guest Choreographer

Administrative Experience

  • Department Co-Supervisor w/ lecturer Kimi Guthrie
  • Theater Arts Student Advisor – Dance Majors & Minors


Professional Experience
Dimensions Dance Theater – principal dancer, 1989 – present

  • Various works by choreographer/director Deborah Brooks Vaughan and guest choreographers including: Donald McKayle, Garth Fagen, Milton Myers.

Award-winning company, national & international touring

Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers – principal dancer, 1992 – 1999, guest artist 2002 – 2009

  • Various works by director choreographer Anne Bluethenthal; Award-winning company

Robert Moses’Kin – guest artist, 2008

  • Soloist , Draft ; Award-winning choreographer

Kim Epifano – guest artist, 2011

  • Soloist & ensemble ; Award-winning choreographer


Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival, choreographer/performer, 2008, 2009

  • Invited soloist, I That Is We, When Strength is My Weakness

The Electric Lodge, Venice California, CA

Afro – Solo, choreographer/performer, 2007

  • Invited soloist, I That Is We, awarded the CA$H grant

The Marsh, San Francisco, CA

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, curator/ director, 2005, 2006

  • Outdoor, site-specific festival, free to public

            Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA

Black Choreographers Festival, presenter/curator, grant writer, 2005 – present

  • Awarded Best in the Bay, 2009

ODC Theater, Project Artaud Theater, Dance Mission

SummerFEST Dance Series, choreographer/performer, 2003

  • Choreographed and performed Shadows, Whispers, & Sighs, awarded the CA$H grant

            Dancers: Frances Sedayo (CSUEB Alum), Nora Chipaumire, and Robert Henry Johnson
            Cowell Theater, San Francisco, CA

Quilt Project: Pieces of Me, co-creator, artistic director/choreographer/performer, 2002

  • Awarded the Creative Work Fund, Irvine Foundation’s  DanceMakers Grant

Presented with award-winning artists, Robert Henry Johnson, Robert Moses,
Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Wayne Wallace
ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA

Professional Affliation
Arts Education

  • California Dance Educators Association
  • International Association of Blacks in Dance – Guest Teacher/Performer, 2002

Consultant/Community Liaison

  • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2005 - present
  • CounterPULSE, 2009 - 2010
  • Stepology , 2006 - 2009
  • Robert Moses’ Kin, 1998 - 2008

Board of Directors

  • Counter PULSE, 2010 - present
  • DanceART, INC, invited to serve in 2012

Advisory Board Member

  • Isadora Duncan Dance Committee, 2005 – 2008, 2011 - present
  • Robert Moses’ Kin, 1998 - present
  • SF Arts Education Project, 1994 - present

Arts Organizations

  • AAAPAC – non-profit – Executive Director/ Development Director, 1996 – present
  • Programs

The Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now
Men of Color Dancing Project

Funding Organizations

  • Haas Foundation –Submission Panel – Reader,  2010
  • SF Arts Commission – Selection Panel, 2008

Scholarship Organizations

  • Young Saints Scholarship Foundation – Executive Director, 2008 – present

Awards & Recognition

  • Kenneth Rainin Foundation, 2011 - 2012
  • San Francisco Arts Commission, 2005 – 2007, 2009 - 2011
  • Zellerbach Family Fund, 2006 – 2010
  • San Francisco Foundation,  2005 – 2007/2009 , 2010
  • Walter & Elise Haas Fund, 2005
  • LEF Foundation , 2005
  • Creative Work Fund, 2002
  • Irvine Foundation’s Dance Makers Grant, 2002


  • Isadora Duncan Dance Awards,

Nomination, 2005 – Outstanding Individual Performance
Award, 2009 – Outstanding Individual Performance

Spring Semester 2024
Course #SecCourse TitleDaysFromToLocationCampus
DANC 37001Dance Ensemble PerformanceARRPE-0140Hayward Campus
DANC 37101Stage and Screen EnsembleARRPE-0140Hayward Campus
THEA 37001Musical Theater PerformanceARRTH-0182Hayward Campus