Originally from Southern California, Leila McMillan is a London based choreographer, teacher and dancer. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Dance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), teaching Contemporary Dance technique, Improvisation, Dance Composition, Choreography and Repertory courses. In 2017, she was appointed Artist-in-Residence at HKAPA and created 3 fingers at arm’s length for the School which was nominated for ‘Outstanding Choreography’ by the Hong Kong Dance Alliance Awards 2018 and collaborative film project Hood set within the neighbourhoods of Hong Kong.
Leila trained in commercial dance in Southern California, before completing a BA (Hons) Dance Theatre, MA Dance Performance from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and member of Transitions Dance Company (2004/05). As a performer she worked with various artists including David Zambrano, Crystal Pite, Thomas Lehmen, Wendy Houstoun, Vicky Amedume, Jasmina Krizaj and Nina Fajdiga.
Since receiving a place on David Zambrano’s 50 Days Flying Low and Passing Through (2010), Leila is one of the internationally certified artists teaching this technique and has led the development of this approach in the UK. Alongside her practice with these techniques she led the production of Zambrano’s Soul Project tour to 10 villages throughout Senegal, West Africa. She was a founder member of 50collective, touring and producing performances and workshops around the world. Prior of joining HKAPA, Leila was Lecturer of Dance at London Contemporary Dance School from 2014-2020, leading the development of Flying Low and Passing Through techniques into the curriculum alongside creating the following works No more landing (2016), Honey (2019) and Benched (2020). She has taught throughout UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia, United States and South America.
As a choreographer, Leila creates work that is high-energy yet nuanced and abstract in its choreography, drawing on personal experiences focusing on themes of identity, gender and the cultural interface. Collaboration is at the heart of her process and Flying Low/Passing Through techniques support her current artistic practice. She is also an award winning artist within the field of contemporary dance with works premiering in noted theatres across the UK including Sadler's Wells Lilian Baylis Studio, The Place, Nottingham Contemporary and Greenwich Dance. Her full-length work Family Portrait (2015), a structured improvisation unravelling the constructs of family depicted through portraits, was presented throughout the UK at Sadler’s Wells, Greenwich Dance, Dance4 and Nottingham Contemporary. New work Curl of hair (2020) is an intimate duet stemming from personal trauma, shame, duality and gaslighting working with a cross disciplinary creative team. Leila was a Blueprint Bursary recipient from Sadler’s Wells and East London Dance creating iD (2007), a Wild Card artist of Sadler’s Wells curating, This Way, That Way (2015), at Lilian Baylis, an evening of dance, music and art. She has a long-term collaboration with visual artist Paolo Fiorentini and sound designer Domenico Angarano. Other choreographic commissions include London Contemporary Dance School, Verve, East London Dance and HKAPA. She has been invited to various artistic residencies in Slovenia, Argentina, London and Barcelona. From 2012-2020 she collaborated with Angolan visual artist Isaac Carlos as co-founders/Director’s of Muxima, an Independent cafe in Bow, East London, regularly producing art, music and performance events, awarded several times ‘Best Cafe in East London’ by Grazia Magazine and TimeOut London.
Photo by Richard Haynes