Les Watanabe

Les WatanabeLes Watanabe began his dance training in Los Angeles.  His teachers in Los Angeles include:  JazzHama, Jaime Rogers, Claude Thompson, Lester WilsonModern: Janice Gudde Plastino, Donald McKayle, Bella Lewitsky, James Penrod, Ethyl Winter, Fritz Ludin.  Ballet: Eugene Loring, Stanley Holden, and Stefan Wenta.

Les Watanabe received his B.F.A in dance from California Institute of the Arts and his M.F.A. from UC Irvine as a Chancellor’s Fellow.  After forming his own company in San Francisco, Mr. Watanabe received invitations to teach master classes at the Southeast Regional Ballet Association and at dance festivals in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Paris and Vienna, Austria where he was also in residence at Theater An Der Wien.

In the Northwest, Les has taught at the University of Oregon as a Artist-in-Residence, Vancouver, WA School District, June Taylor Ballet, NW Conservatory of Dance, Classical Ballet Academy, University of Portland, Western Oregon University, Portland Festival Ballet and Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy.  Known as a superb dance educator, Mr. Watanabe’s student’s have gone on to attend Julliard, Cornish College of the Arts, North Carolina School of the Arts, UC Irvine,  Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, University of Oklahoma, California Institute of the Arts, Purchase College, State University of New York, and Marylhurst University.

Photographed by Martha Swope in NY. 1972. Dancer: Les Watanabe. Dance title: 'Sojourn'. Choreographer: Donald McKayle. Dance Company: Inner City Repertory Company.

Les Watanabe in ‘Sojourn’ by Donald McKayle, Inner City Repertory Company. Photographed by Martha Swope in NY. 1972.

In addition to his expansive career as a dance educator, Mr. Watanabe has had an illustrious career as a performer.  He performed as soloist for such companies as:  the Inner City Repertory Company (Donald McKayle: Director), L.A. Jazz Co., Lar Lubovitch, Joyce Trisler’s Danscompany, Alvin Ailey II, Sachiyo Ito Japanese Dance Co., Burch Mann Folk Ballet and Peter Goss Dance Company in Europe

Performances in theater and television include:  Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway production of Pacific Overtures, The Who’s Tommy, Leonard Bernstein’s MassAlvin Ailey Presents Duke Ellington CBS special , the Bill Cosby Shows, Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, French variety television and a national tour with Rita Moreno’s The Act.

Eugene Loring & Leslie Watanabe. 1970. UC Irvine, Ca. Photographer: Unknown.

Eugene Loring (R) & Leslie Watanabe (L). 1970. UC Irvine, Ca. Photographer: Unknown.

As a choreographer, Mr. Watanabe is known for his eclectic and stylistic dynamism.  His theatrical credits include:  Pajama Game, Journey, Blood Wedding, Rhinocerous (Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts), Midsummer Night’s Dream, Guys and Dolls, Beethoven n’ Pierot (Denver Center Theatre Company); Judy Garland (Stadtstheater-St. Polten, Austria); Gift of the Magi (Cleveland Playhouse).  His concert work known for it’s brilliance and exciting innovative juxtapositions has been presented both nationally and in Europe to great acclaim.  He was nominated for the American Choreographer’s Award for his work Luna which was set on DJAZZEX in Den Haag and toured Europe for 1 year.  His Tablao Flamenco and Milonga were the highlights  at the NHSDF.   Other works include:  Wind..Rain..Light, Taut, Autumn,  Accumulation and For Your Love (a tribute to the 1960’s in L.A.), for Portland Festival Ballet,  Bonsai and Journey, both made for  video, Whispers, Taiko, Drum, Poem commissioned by Univ. of Oregon, Cantes De Ida y Vuelta – presented at Lester Horton Festival in L.A. & commissioned by Donald McKayle for UC Irvine’s 50th Anniversary concert,  I Wish & Tango (performed for Oregon Senate) & commissioned by DanceWest.

Dancer: Leslie Watanabe. 1980. L.A. Jazz Company - Los Angeles. Photographer: Diane Schroeder. Choreographer: Jaime Rogers

Dancer: Leslie Watanabe. 1980. L.A. Jazz Company – Los Angeles. Photographer: Diane Schroeder. Choreographer: Jaime Rogers

Les currently teaches at University of Portland Western Oregon University.  He is also director of Cine-Dance Productions, LLC which began in 2002 and specializes in videography.  He has worked with dancers in New York, Los Angeles and Portland.

Biography Provided by: Les Watanabe

Further Reading:

Official Website: http://www.leswatanabe.com/


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Categorized as: ARTIST, Choreographer, Dancer, Modern, Teacher/Educator