Leslie Nolte is a celebrated and seasoned visionary in the realm of performance arts and arts education. Through many avenues, she has enriched the arts community in which she lives. Most notably, Leslie is the founder of The James Theater, a dynamic and accessible performance and event space; a producer and artistic director of many varied productions and ventures from The Nutcracker to Newsies; an award-winning choreographer with numerous professional accolades; an investor in several theatrical productions including the Tony-Winning Broadway musical The Cher Show; an accomplished business leader; and a teacher by trade and by heart.
Under her direction as founder and artistic director, Nolte Academy has grown from a one-woman dance studio to a premiere arts program with 25 specialized instructors and more than 1,000 students. Now in its 23rd year, Nolte Academy’s breadth of instruction spans from dance (ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, tap, acro) to Pilates to visual and theatre arts classes. Nolte Academy students are taught precise technique and have opportunities to share space with professional choreographers, master teachers and numerous guest artists.
With a focus on high-quality productions, students also have opportunities to grow and learn on stage. While studying with Leslie and faculty, students have participated in varied professional opportunities, such as New York Fashion Week and Austin Dance Festival. Numerous Nolte Academy alumni have gone on to immerse themselves in professional programs, including The Juilliard School, Martha Graham Dance Company, the School of American Ballet, Radio City Rockettes, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Ballet West, Houston Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Florida State University and Point Park University.
Leslie has founded many performance opportunities including: Open Doors Dance Festival, a summer dance intensive which brings world-class performing artists and instructors to engage and perform with her students; Youth Rising, a spoken word/dance co-production; DanceWorks, a production of classical ballet repertoire and original works; Performing Arts Preschool, an innovative on-site arts-immersive preschool educated scores of children during its nearly 10 year duration.
Beyond her studio work, Leslie brings workshop dance instruction to area schools as part of Kennedy Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program, helping to guarantee access and equity to the arts for all students. Leslie has also been a guest lecturer at The University of Iowa Tippie College of Business and was the 2019 recipient of the Larry Eckholt Award recognizing her commitment to Iowa’s Corridor arts and culture community.