Leslie Anderson-Braswell’s love for dance began at three years of age, and became her ultimate life’s journey at the age of twelve when she joined the children cast of Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, under the direction of choreographer Nicholas Petrov in 1969. In 1971, Leslie became one of the youngest members of the corps de ballet, dancing in a variety of renowned classical ballets for three seasons. During the summer of 1972, Leslie spent the summer at Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theater of Harlem in New York; her goal was to one day return as a dancer for Arthur Mitchell’s African-American ballet company.
In 1973, Leslie auditioned and was accepted into the exclusive pre-professional Stuttgart Ballet School, in Stuttgart, West Germany. While in Stuttgart, Leslie performed with the Stuttgart State Opera, in addition to the assigned roles with the Stuttgart Ballet School and Company. In 1975, Leslie auditioned, and was invited to join the Geneva Ballet, in Geneva Switzerland; however, Leslie longed to return to the United States to work with Arthur Mitchell, the first Black principal dancer of George Balanchine’s, New York City Ballet. Upon returning to New York as a member of The Dance Theater of Harlem, she performed and toured extensively throughout America and Europe. Unfortunately, due to an injury, Leslie had to leave Dance Theater of Harlem, and professional ballet, much earlier than anticipated. In 1979, she became the first dance teacher hired to teach ballet at Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, originally located in Homewood and today known as CAPA 6-12 located in downtown Pittsburgh’s cultural district. She has been a member of the Dance Department faculty for 35 years, where she has inspired a generation of aspiring dancer.
Equally prominent teaching credits include Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy of Musical Theater, where Leslie taught for 16 years. As a result of working at the Academy, many of her former students have reached the pinnacle of success in dance; they include McArthur Genius recipient, choreographer/ dance artist Kyle Abraham, “Kinky Boots” star and Tony Award winner, Billy Porter and many others. In August, 2012, Greer Reed bestowed the highest honor upon Leslie Anderson Braswell, the ballet teacher of her youth and mentor, by naming an award, The Brazzy Award, in her honor, for outstanding lifetime achievement in dance education and mentorship. The award is presented to two professional dance artists, selected, by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dance critic, Jane Vranish, for their excellence and contributions to the professional dance community. Presently, Leslie has also been working with another former student, Ayisha Morgan-Lee, MAM, founder and director of Hill Dance Academy Theater, a successful, new innovative arts education institution located in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches Ballet and Pointe to advance students in HDAT’s Pre-Professional program.
In 1986, Leslie was awarded an Outstanding Distinguished Teacher Award, presented at the White House by President Ronald Reagan. She was honored with an Outstanding Woman of America Award in 1982, and the Outstanding Artist Award from the Pittsburgh’s Greater Legacy Council, in celebration of African-American Artists.