2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in Arts Education
Leslie Ptak Baker is a dancer, teacher, choreographer and creative artist. She has been teaching at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy (FALA) for the last 15 years. There, she currently teaches 6 classes: Jazz dance, levels 1, 2 & 3; Modern 1; Tap dance; and Dance Through Time (dance history) to Middle and High School students. Ms. Baker often recreates and teaches students original choreography by masters such as Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins. She also teaches Advisory and is the sponsor for FALA’s charter chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), a branch of Arizona Dance Education Organization and the National Dance Education Organization. Leslie is a member and past board member of AZDEO, serving four years as Northern Arizona representative. Leslie is also a supporter and/or member of the Arizona Dance Coalition, Arizona Citizens for the Arts, and the Flagstaff Arts Council.
Before coming to FALA, Baker was the Outstanding ASU BFA Graduate in Dance Performance and Choreography (1978) and a professional dancer in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Canada, and Japan. Leslie performed for 8 years, traveling worldwide, with Princess Cruises. After performing and choreographing several shows with the Fountain Hills Community Theater (1988-89), she gained 9 years experience as a teacher while living at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. She developed and taught dance, children’s theater, aerobics, step, body sculpting, and fitness programs for the Grand Canyon community. Leslie created a creative movement program and curriculum for the children of the Grand Canyon area called “Move!” which she then brought to the NAU Preparatory School for the Performing Arts (now, NAU Community Music and Dance Academy) where she also taught Primary Ballet, Tap and Jazz in the RAD program (1999-2005).
In Flagstaff, Baker is deeply ingrained in the dance community. She has performed with Canyon Movement Company, Isolated Incident Dance Company, and in collaborations with Lynn Medoff and the late Michael Sullivan at NAU Faculty performances. She has performed in and choreographed over 6 shows including “Brigadoon” (2001), “The King & I”(2005), and “Oliver” (2003) for the Flagstaff Light Opera Company. Leslie has also choreographed for Canyon Moon Theater (“My Way” 2003), “Once Upon A Mattress” (2003) for NAU Music Camp, and the Town and Gown production of “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” (2008). Baker has choreographed for the local theater company, Theatrikos (“Lysistrata” (2007), “The Full Monty” (2015), and Theatrikids’ “West Side Story”(2016)). She was also an actress in last year’s Theatrikos production of “The Full Monty”. For fun, Leslie provides multiple voices for Mary Farfisa’s Outer Space Radio Theater broadcast on Radio Sunnyside and Mixcloud and performs with Sambatuque in the summer.
As a teacher, Baker makes an effort to provide her students with many opportunities for community exposure. For several years, her students have participated in the opening reception for the Youth Art Exhibition at the Coconino Center for the Arts, performing dances at the reception in front of fellow students, family, and community members. Her students have performed with the Link Up programs with the Flagstaff Symphony and at Palette to Palate at CCC. These events are a great opportunity to practice performing in public and are a great way to support fellow student artists. Each year at FALA, Baker choreographs, directs and produces two major performances: Winter Escapades in December and the Spring Dance Performance in May. These performances have grown to include around 150 FALA dancers. Leslie also takes students each year on several dance related field trips to U of A, ASU, and New York City.
In just 2016, the following performances and activities for Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy’s dancers are indicative of the opportunities Ms. Baker has provided each year:
- One Billion Rising flash mob at FALA and Heritage Square
- Dan Kamin residency, Flagstaff Symphony Link Up Program
- The Arizona High School Dance Festival in Phoenix (adjudicated performances)
- “Pippin” collaboration with Mike Levin, Circus Bacchus at the Orpheum, choreography.
- Palette to Palate performance at CCC
- Suite Sixteen, May dance concert
- 4th of July Parade with Sambatuque
- The Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase at U of A, Tucson
- Youth Performance at CCA
- Professional Photo shoots with Rick Johnson
- Annual small performances for FALA Vaudeville Show, Empty Bowls at Heritage Square, Chairs for Change
- Global Stilts Congress field trip
- Numerous master classes by FALA dance alumni and guest artists
- Winter Escapades, December dance concert