USC Kaufman

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Friday, November 11th
Grasan Kingsberry, Musical Theater
Q & A with Anne Auberta-Santelli

Saleemah Knight, Jazz
Q & A with Anne Auberta-Santelli

Class of 2024 in A Momentum of Memory by Doug Varone photo by Rose Eichenbaum

USC Kaufaman Class of 2024 in A Momentum of Memory by Doug Varone photo by Rose Eichenbaum 2.jpeg

USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance
Los Angeles, CA

Founded in 2012 by a transformational gift from visionary founder Glorya Kaufman, the University of Southern California created its sixth art school and, at that time, its first new school in nearly 40 years. The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance expands upon USC’s unique signature as a world-class research institution with a deep commitment to the arts. With its enterprising vision for arts education, USC Kaufman is at the forefront of developing dancers, choreographers and dance leaders for the future.

The exciting opportunity to create a new school brought the chance to rethink the professional degree for the 21st century and the role of a dance school within the greater national ecology. To fulfill this monumental intention, USC Kaufman envisioned a new model of dance education, called “The New Movement” – a hybrid and collaborative approach expressed in studio practice, music, choreography, performance, new media and scholarship, where artistic preeminence is combined with thoughtful industry access.

By encouraging interdisciplinary and collaborative work, USC Kaufman seeks to transform dance. It embraces the artistic rigor of conservatory dance instruction with unparalleled academic opportunity offered by one of the world’s leading universities to shape the next generation of dance leaders who are connected to the world-at-large.

The program encourages students to think across boundaries and take advantage of the diverse cultures both on campus and within the Los Angeles arts community. Students approach the study of dance with a global perspective, reinforced through collaboration with national and international artists.

In addition to bringing together a stellar list of faculty and Artists in Residence, the program features the repertory of several iconic and innovative choreographers including Founding Director Jodie Gates, as well as George Balanchine, Jiří Kylián, Ohad Naharin, Crystal Pite, Dwight Rhoden, Sonya Tayeh and Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit, among other significant dance-makers.

Graduates of the BFA program have gone on to secure contracts with Broadway productions and dance companies including Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Ballet BC, BalletMet, Ballet Hispánico, BODYTRAFFIC, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Oregon Ballet Theatre and RUBBERBAND, among others. They have also gone on to pursue careers in choreography, arts administration, marketing and business.

Grasan Kingsberry | Photo by Lelund Durond

Grasan Kingsberry | Photo by Lelund Durond

Grasan Kingsberry

Grasan Kingbserry is a Daytime Emmy, Grammy, ACCA and Regional BroadwayWorld Award winning artist originally from Charlotte, NC. After receiving a BFA from The Juilliard School, he went on to appear in 11 Broadway productions. He was featured in the 2018 Tony Award best revival Once On This Island. He was a part of workshopping and developing the 2005 original Broadway cast as well as the 2015 Tony, Grammy, and Emmy winning revival of The Color Purple.

Other Broadway shows include: Motown, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Leap of Faith, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Finian’s Rainbow, Catch Me If You Can, and Aida. Regional theater roles include: Something Rotten! (William Shakespeare); Musical Theatre West; In The Heights (Benny); Music Theatre of Wichita (2019 Regional BroadwayWorld Award), Annie (H. Morgenthau); Hollywood Bowl, One Night In Miami (Sam Cooke); CenterStage, Dreamgirls (Curtis); North Shore.

TV: “Mozartin the Jungle,” “Smash,” “Royal Pains,” “All My Children,” “Today Show,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Late Show with David Letterman”and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Film: “The Aerialist” (2019) and “I Am Legend”with Will Smith. He has worked with countless notable artists such as Beyoncé, Michelle Williams, Deborah Cox, Toni Braxton, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Holliday, John Lithgow, Harry Connick, Jr., Alan Menken, Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara and Wynton Marsalis.

Aside from his fruitful career as a performer, Kingsberry is an international teacher and mentor, and currently serves as a Lecturer in Dance for Musical Theater at USC Kaufman. He is also the Co-founder of {subject to change}, a gender-neutral streetwear clothing brand, and the Co-owner of a basenji named Kayode.

Saleemah E. Knight headshot

Saleemah E. Knight

Saleemah Knight

Saleemah E. Knight is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary artist in the concert and commercial dance realms, TV-personality, choreographer, on-camera host lifestyle influencer, professional dancer and university educator. She is currently a professor of dance studies and original founding faculty at the highly-acclaimed University of Southern California, Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Knight was recruited by the university to build USC Kaufman’s curriculum in 2014 and maintains full-time professorship in tandem with her esteemed artistic career.

Saleemah graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Arizona, School of Dance. As a graduate fellowship recipient, she also received a Master of Fine Arts Degree in dance from the University of California, Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts. Knight’s performance credits include: Disney’s The Lion King Broadway Musical, Beyoncé Live at the Billboard Music Awards, Chris Brown and many other internationally recognized choreographers, artists and televised productions. As a featured dancer with The Lion King, Saleemah also performed on The Daytime Emmys, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and ABC’s Live! with Regis and Kelly (presently ABC’s Live! with Kelly and Ryan). Knight’s background includes training in Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, Modern, and Hip-Hop Dance from outstanding private schools and dance masters throughout the United States. They include, yet are not limited to: Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, River North Chicago, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, The Edge Performing Arts Center, Millennium Dance Complex, Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, and Broadway Dance Center.

Saleemah’s performance credits include many well-known choreographers and entertainers. As an adolescent, Knight was selected to perform the work of celebrated concert dance choreographer Donald Byrd in the World Premiere of “The Harlem Nutcracker”. The premiere garnered nation-wide attention and a highly publicized segment featured on the CBS Network. As a trainee of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company Saleemah also danced the iconic works of choreographers such as Bill T. Jones, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Bebe Miller. Knight has danced the politically charged work of UCLA faculty Victoria Marks, entitled “Not About Iraq” and also performed the work of contemporary ballet choreographer Jodie Gates, honoring the Rite of Spring, entitled the “Sacre Project”. In addition to her concert dance experience Saleemah has performed commercially with The Pussycat Dolls, Tatu, and Matisyahu at the MTV Movie Awards. She is featured on the Jillian Michaels Fitness DVD series entitled, “No More Trouble Zones” and “Banish the Fat, Boost Your Metabolism”, currently sold online and in stores worldwide. Saleemah danced lead with Chris Brown in Ludacris’ music video, “I Know What Them Girls Like” and made a guest appearance in Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It On the Alcohol” music video. She was also featured on Gatorade’s Mission G Episode 3 of “Leave It On the Floor” featuring well-known artist, Will.I.Am of The Black Eyed Peas. Knight has choreographed fashion shows for Christian Audigier’s Ed Hardy apparel line, which featured America’s Next Top Model winner, Whitney Thompson. She has also danced on tour with actor and recording artist Tyrese for the Transformers and The Fast and the Furious movie promotional tours. Saleemah has appeared on Country Music Television (CMT) as a featured dance instructor for the television series, “MADE”. Her performance abilities have also deemed her recipient of The University of Arizona’s Medici Fine Arts Scholarship, the Brian Friedman Millennium Dance Scholarship, the Gus Giordano Scholarship, Coca Cola’s Leadership Scholarship, as well as fellowships and awards at the University of California, Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts. In addition, Knight is a past select company member for Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II and Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago II.

Saleemah’s choreographic expertise has grabbed the attention of entertainers worldwide. She has been the choreographer select for various performers, ranging from MTV Asia, to The Bay to the A Tour, featuring well-known recording artists Bosko Kante, E-40, Rick Ross, Lil’ Jon and Busta Rhymes and has also provided artist development for Akon’s former singing sensation, Tami Chynn. Saleemah’s contemporary dance work entitled “The Drowning” was performed at the American Cancer Society Benefit Concert located in Beverly Hills, California, benefiting cancer patients across the United States. Saleemah provided movement coaching and artistic direction for Latin rap artist Daddy Yankee’s “Limbo” music video and was the choreographer for his “La Noche de Los Dos” music video, both directed by Jessy Terrero of Cinema Giants (formerly known as Terrero Films). Knight was also commissioned by Cinema Giants to choreograph the “Que Viva La Vida” music video for international Puerto Rican pop artist, Wisin (formerly of Wisin y Yandel) as well as the “La Malquerida” music video for Latin pop princess, Chiquis Rivera. Saleemah has provided movement coaching for recording artist Wiz Khalifa as well as created choreography for Jan and Dean’s legendary hit “Surf City” on behalf of the Cigna Healthcare memorial gala honoring the musical duo.

As a dance educator and master teacher, Saleemah offers repertoire development and technical instruction to students in concert and commercial dance as well as movement coaching for recording artists. She also provides Q&A discussion workshops regarding the pursuit of the arts. During the academic season, she has taught undergraduate BFA courses at the University of California, Irvine and Santa Ana College in jazz, modern and hip-hop dance. She has also taught modern and jazz dance technique as an artist in residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as well as at the University of California, Los Angeles as a graduate associate. She has been an invited guest speaker and jazz master instructor at Loyola Marymount University, Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s pre-professional summer trainee program, Tremaine Dance Convention, CLI Studios, Laguna Dance Festival, Ballet Plus Miami, New Century Dance Project, Dance Teacher Magazine and Break the Floor’s Dance Teacher Summit, as well as Break the Floor’s JUMP Dance Convention and Dancer-Palooza events. Knight was an international guest master teacher and choreographer for St. Petersburg, Russia’s DAR Jazz Festival in January 2020 and also a speaker for Rihanna’s “Ladies Night” women’s empowerment event sponsored by Fenty x Rihanna and Shiekh Shoes. Saleemah is a recurring guest instructor and choreographer at the prestigious Debbie Allen Dance Academy. In the spirit of providing accessibility for low-income communities, Knight also offers dance outreach classes to inner city youth.

Saleemah E. Knight currently teaches pre-professional level jazz dance technique courses focused in Black social dances/ vernacular jazz, contemporary jazz, Broadway and concert jazz styles, as well as commercial jazz. Saleemah has designed and currently instructs theory courses in the areas of world perspectives on dance, cultural studies, jazz dance history, dance and popular culture, and choreography for the screen at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Knight was featured in Dance Teacher Magazine as a highlighted university professor in the field of jazz dance and is currently featured on HBO Max as a dance expert on the award-winning film and documentary UPROOTED: The Journey of Jazz Dance. The film, which premiered on HBO Max in February of 2022, highlights Saleemah as a dance expert alongside legendary performers such as Debbie Allen and Chita Rivera, notable choreographers such as Mandy Moore and Josh Bergasse, renowned scholars such as Thomas F. DeFrantz and Moncell Durden, and many more. Saleemah E. Knight continues to bring her academic expertise, professional and vibrant attitude to conservatory programs, recording artists, network series, performing companies and academic universities worldwide.