Les Watanabe received his B.F.A. in dance from the California Institute of the Arts and his M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine, as a Chancellor’s Fellow. After forming his own company in San Francisco, Mr. Watanabe received invitations to teach master classes at the Southeast Regional Ballet Association and at dance festivals in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Paris, and Vienna, with a residency at Theater an der Wien.
Mr. Watanabe has worked with students throughout the Northwest. In addition to teaching at Portland Festival Ballet, he has taught at the University of Oregon as an artist in residence; in the Vancouver (WA) school district; June Taylor’s School of Dance; Northwest Conservatory of Dance; Classical Ballet Academy; Arts and Communication Magnet Academy; and Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy.
Mr. Watanabe’s students have gone on to attend schools such as Juilliard; Cornish College of the Arts; North Carolina School of the Arts; UC Irvine; Tisch School of the Arts at New York University; University of Oklahoma; California Institute of the Arts; Purchase College, State University of New York; and Marylhurst University.
In addition to his expansive career as a dance educator, Mr. Watanabe has had an illustrious career as a performer. He performed as soloist for such companies as Donald McKayle’s Inner City Repertory Company; Lar Lubovitch; Joyce Trisler Danscompany; Alvin Ailey II; Sachiyo Ito Japanese Dance Co.; Burch Mann Folk Ballet; and Peter Goss Dance Company.
Performances in theater and television include Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway production of Pacific Overtures; The Who’s Tommy; Leonard Bernstein’s Mass; Alvin Ailey Presents Duke Ellington CBS special; the Bill Cosby Show; the Academy Awards; Emmy Awards; French variety television; and a national tour with Rita Moreno’s The Act.
As a choreographer, Mr. Watanabe is known for his eclectic and stylistic dynamism. His theatrical credits include Pajama Game; Journey; Rhinoceros (Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts); Midsummer Night’s Dream; Guys and Dolls; Beethoven ‘n’ Pierrot (Denver Center Theatre Company); Judy Garland (St. Polten state theater in Austria); and Gift of the Magi (Cleveland Play House). His concert work has been presented both nationally and in Europe.