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.
San Francisco Arts Education Project, SF, CA
Artist in Residency Program1989 - 2000
Contra Costa College, Contra Costa, CA
Young Actors Workshop, 1992 – 2001
California State University East Bay, Hayward, CA
Technique Classes – General Education / Major Courses, Theatre & Dance, 1994 - 1995
Lecture Courses - General Education/Major Courses, Theatre & Dance, Liberal Arts
co-taught w/ Anne-lise Ruesswig & Kimi Guthrie
co-taught w/ Professor Rhoda Kaufman
The Athenian School, Danville, CA
Special Faculty Assignments
Theater Productions – Theatre & Dance Department
Musical Theater Productions – Theatre & Dance Department
Co-choreographer w/ Professor Darryl Jones
Co-choreographer w/ Professor Marc Jacobs
Opera Productions – Music Department
Dimensions Dance Theater – principal dancer, 1989 – present
Award-winning company, national & international touring
Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers – principal dancer, 1992 – 1999, guest artist 2002 – 2009
Robert Moses’Kin – guest artist, 2008
Kim Epifano – guest artist, 2011
Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival, choreographer/performer, 2008, 2009
The Electric Lodge, Venice California, CA
Afro – Solo, choreographer/performer, 2007
The Marsh, San Francisco, CA
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, curator/ director, 2005, 2006
Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA
Black Choreographers Festival, presenter/curator, grant writer, 2005 – present
ODC Theater, Project Artaud Theater, Dance Mission
SummerFEST Dance Series, choreographer/performer, 2003
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
Presented with award-winning artists, Robert Henry Johnson, Robert Moses,
Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Wayne Wallace
ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA
Board of Directors
Advisory Board Member
The Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now
Men of Color Dancing Project
Nomination, 2005 – Outstanding Individual Performance
Award, 2009 – Outstanding Individual Performance