Based in Paris Ile-de-France, Joanne Leighton is a Belgian-Australian choreographer and pedagogue. Her professional career is linked to an original, dynamic and constantly evolving vision of dance and her discourse is permeated by an emphasis on dialogue and exchange, both with the public and with her artistic collaborators. Central to her work lies the notion of site, territory and identity, which are for Joanne Leighton interdependent spaces.
Joanne Leighton is the representative choreographer of the administrative council of the SACD (French Society of Composers and Dramatic Authors) and the Beaumarchais 2018 – 2020. Joanne Leighton is currently in residence with Le Collectif Essonne Dance 2018-2020 and the DRAC Ile-de-France; L’Espace 1789, Scène conventionnée danse Saint-Ouen, supported by the Departement in Seine-Saint-Denis 2018/2021; and at the Theater Quinconces / L'Espal du Mans from 2020. WLDN is supported by the French Ministry for the Arts.
After dancing in the Australian Dance Theater (1986-1991), Joanne Leighton moved to Europe, living and performing in London for 2 years. Her company Velvet was formed in Brussels from 1993 - 2010, where she established her choreographic work, active for over 18 years. She was choreographer in residence at the Raffinery - Charleroi/Danses (2003-2005) and Les Halles de Schaerbeek (2005-2007). In 1994 and in 2010 she received the SACD Prize (Society of Composers and Dramatic Authors) for her choreographic work. Joanne Leighton has been commissioned to create work for international companies such as the Dance Theater of Ireland (2001); in Belgium for Charleroi Danses (2005); in France for the Ballet de Lorraine (2014) and in Switzerland for the company Marchepied (2015).
Directrice of the National Choreographic Center of Franche-Comté in Belfort in France (2010 – 2015), Joanne Leighton formed WLDN in 2015. WLDN is a project, philosophy and platform for her choreographic research and creation. Her works have been performed nationally and internationally in theaters, urban and industrial spaces, art galleries, town squares, on rooftops and presented on screens and smartphones. Joanne Leighton's choreographic work has been co-produced and presented on international stages for over 20 years, with over 30 productions touring to France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Netherlands, Wales, the United Kingdom, Australia and Cuba.
Joanne Leighton’s choreographic work includes Corps Exquis (2019) a piece for 3 dancers around an exquisite corpse for 58 choreographers; I am sitting in a room, a movement study of the sitting position performed by four poetic clowns on the eponymous text by American composer Alvin Lucier; Exquisite Corpse (2012) an exquisite corpse for 7 dancers ; Made in…Series, a large scale ‘architecture in movement’ for 99 participants performed in situ and (re)created in France, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Cuba; The Modulables, a series of site-specific pieces between installation and performance with an ambulatory public, which have been evolving over a period of 10 years. In 2014, Joanne Leighton and the director Christoph Frick co-sign Melting Pot for 9 young performers from immigrant backgrounds, a cultural exchange between the Theater Freiburg, the CCN of Belfort and Junges Theater Basel. Chair Dances, an evolutive virtual digital gallery comprising over 30 short choreographic films by diverse choreographers involving chairs, was initiated by Joanne Leighton in 2010.
In 2015 Joanne Leighton initiated a trilogy of works which will span 5 years with her signature piece 9000 Steps, performed by six dancers on a bed of salt to the music Drumming, Steve Reich. This work was followed in 2018 with Songlines, for eight dancers, created to the fascinating musical composition In C by Terry Riley. This trilogy will conclude with her production People United in 2021.
In September 2011, Joanne Leighton launched her large scale work, The Vigil, whereby each morning and evening at sunrise and sunset over 365 days, a participant holds watch over the city for one hour, a work for 730 inhabitants and performed over 365 consecutive days. Around these same principals this choreography has been mounted for the towns Belfort (September 2011 – September 2012) ; Laval (15th September 2012 – 15th September 2013) ; Rennes (30th September 2012 – 29th September 2013) Haguenau (1st January – 31st December 2015), Freiburg, Germany (20th June 2015 – 19th June 2016) and Evreux, France (22nd September 2017 – 22nd September 2018) for the Le Tangram, Scène Nationale. De Waarnemer van Dordrecht - The Dordrecht Vigil Holland, is currently in performance (1st Mai 2019 – 30th April 2020) for the Schouwburg Kunstmin, Energiehuis in Holland, and eigth project, The Graz Vigil Austria (1st January 2020 - 31st December 2020) is currently being mounted for La Strada.
In parallel to her stage works, Joanne Leighton initiated a series of walking pieces as with Walk#1 Belfort – Freiburg, where she walked a path between two Vigil sites by following waterways over 127 kms in four days. Since 2014 these ‘walking dances’ are part of her choreographic practice. In September 2017, Joanne Leighton mounted Walk, a performance over 25 km linking the four theaters of Paris Réseau Danse, with an open call for participants to join her. Her work Salt Circle concluded this unique event at the CDCN Ateliers de Paris. Her walking projects such as Walking as Remembering (2019) weave into her choreographic practice and stage work.
An internationally recognized pedagogue, Joanne Leighton regularly gives lectures and workshops. She has taught for companies such as Jean-Claude Gallotta, Catherine Diverrès, Angelin Preljocaj, Trisha Brown Company, Batsheva Company, Charleroi / Danses, AMNT in Tokyo, Need Company, Rosas, Wim Vandekeybus, and dance centers like the Seoul International Choreographic Center (South Korea); The Menagerie de Verre, Paris; Centre National Danse in Paris; Atelier de Paris / CDCN; PARTS; Dansens House in Copenhagen; and the Croatian Institue for Movement and Dance / Zagreb Dance Center. She has also taught in art schools such as the fine arts school in Toulouse.
Interested in finding new ways of being, doing, thinking, working, making and presenting, Joanne Leighton seeks to embrace a radically different approach to access, ownership, and authorship in contemporary dance performance.
Photo ©Tania Vrancken