Rachael Leonard

Adjunct Professor of Music, Movement

Rachael Leonard was born and raised in Massachusetts and now resides in Port Orange, Florida, with her husband and two children. She received her B.F.A. in modern dance from the University of Utah and her M.F.A. in dance choreography from Jacksonville University as a Howard Gilman Fellow.

Her additional dance training includes Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Pioneer Valley Ballet, Boston Ballet, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, Green Street Studios, North Carolina School of the Arts, Dance New Amsterdam, the Juilliard School and Jacob's Pillow. She also studied piano, voice, percussion, music theory, rhythm analysis and multicultural music and dance. In addition to instructing courses at Stetson, Rachael is co-founder and artistic director of Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre, a non-profit professional dance company based in Volusia County, Florida, and a recurring guest choreographer for Columbia City Ballet, a professional ballet company located in Columbia, South Carolina. Rachael is also a co-owner of Zen Body Works, where she is a certified pilates, yoga and wellness instructor/personal trainer. Her past teaching and residencies include University of Utah, College of Southern Idaho, Jacksonville University, Alma College, Temple University, Bethune Cookman University, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Rowland-Hall St. Marks School and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Rachael has served as adjudicator and master instructor for the American College Dance Association (ACDA), adjudicator and clinician for the Volusia County Dance Performance Assessment, master artist in residence for Very Special Arts, artist in residence with the National Park Service, president of the Volusia County Cultural Alliance and modern dance faculty for the United States International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. In the summer of 2015, she was a selected artist in residence (dnace/choreography) at the MarbleHouse Project in Dorset, Vermont. Rachael's choreographic repertoire includes over 90 original works, several of which are collaborations with fellow choreographers and with artists of varying disciplines. Most recently, she has presented her work in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sadler's Wells and Ladbroke Theatre in London, the CMFA ArtSpace in Columbia, South Carolina, the Great Friends Dance Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, Alan Aver Art Company in Atlanta, Georgia, Conwell Theatre at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Orlando Fringe Festival, as well as dozens of venues throughout the state of Florida. In addition to teaching, choreographing and directing, Rachael conducts practice-based research and writes dance-related articles and papers. Currently, she is developing an ongoing multidisciplinary cross-continental dance/art installation about sea level rise with a panel of climate change scientists and with Brooklyn-based videographer and lenticular artist, Margeaux Walter. 


  • M.F.A., dance choreography, Jacksonville University
  • B.F.A., modern dance, University of Utah

Course Topics

  • Wellness for Musicians
  • Movement courses
  • Dance Appreciation
  • Movement, Wellness and Somatics for Musicians

Research Interests

  • The role and manifestations of nonverbal communication and socio-philosophical perception within choreographic exploration
  • Auspicious pathways toward emergent narrative within contemporary and poststructuralist ballet
  • Aberrant and cross-discipline improvisation as a means to develop authentic artistry
  • Performative destabilization as a path to corporeal and embodied performance
  • Dance and art criticism in the era of Web 2.0
  • The effectiveness of art as a medium for elevating awareness about climate change and global issues


  • Leonard, Rachael M. (October 2013) Teaching Choreography in Higher Ed: Philosophical Inquiry and Practical Professional Demand, Paper Presentation/ Publication, NDEO National Dance Educators Annual Conference 2013, Miami, Florida.
  • Leonard, Rachael M. (Spring 2013) Nonverbal Communication in (Dance) ACTion. NOFOD/SDHS International Conference Publication, "DanceACTions" Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.
  • Leonard, Rachael M. (Spring 2013) Nonverbal Communication in Choreographic Exploration: The Role and Manifestations of Socio-Physical Perception and Understanding in the Creative Research Process. (Thesis Dissertation) Jacksonville University. Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Bower K., Flores, A., Leonard, R., O'Leary, R., Opdenaker, J., Wexelman, A. (September/October 2012). Education Without Limits: The Growing Trend in Low-Residency Dance MFA Programs. Dance Magazine of Florida. Florida, U.S.

Rachael Leonard

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