Lee Harper: 30 Years of Inspiration, Innovation and Influence
By: Julie Herron Carson
Looking back over the past three decades, it’s strange to think how different Atlanta’s dance landscape might be today, if not for the inspiration, guidance and constancy of Lee Harper, founder of Lee Harper & Dancers. Through her dance school and performing company, along with partnerships with organizations like the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Opera, Miss Harper has taught dance to generations of Atlantans and delighted audiences for over 30 years with her innovative choreography and captivating live performances.
It all began in Atlanta in 1975 when Miss Harper was invited by Maestro Robert Shaw to choreograph the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s first production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. The old adage says the direction of a life can turn on a dime. In this case, it turned on the point of a dance shoe as a single opportunity to choreograph grew into a life-long love affair between Miss Harper and the City of Atlanta.
“Lee Harper and I have had some 30 years of collaboration, and I adore working with her each and every time,” said Jere Flint, staff conductor for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. “Whether it’s choreographing dance for audiences of young children or sophisticated adults, her imagination is golden.”
Miss Harper is a native of Hickory, N.C. She attended the Juilliard School of Music and graduated from the North
Carolina School of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance. Before coming to Atlanta, she
performed professionally with several companies, including the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American
“It’s hard to comprehend the breadth of influence Lee has had on Atlanta’s cultural life,” said Gwenyth Dixon, former ballet mistress for the Atlanta Ballet and long-time performer and teacher with Lee Harper & Dancers. “In addition to her own endeavors, her reach extends throughout the city’s performing arts community through her various partnerships and collaborations. Even her endurance is remarkable, since she continues to teach, perform and inspire dancers and audiences with the
same innovation she has shown throughout the years.”
Lee Harper founded her school and dance company in 1980. A Lexus Leader of the Arts, she is the recipient of numerous honors including two Choreography Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is married to attorney Wayne Vason. They have two children, Katie & Fin.
When Lee first arrived, I knew that Atlanta had attracted a very special talent,” said Flint. “She is truly one of Atlanta’s artistic and personal treasures.”