Black Excellence Can Come From Any Where, And One Person Can Have More Than One Mastery: Meet Sean McLeod

Sean McLeod is an Executive Producer, Award-Winning Businessman, and American Choreographer whose work spans more than 30 years and on 3 continents including New York City, across the US, and internationally to the West Indies, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.  Sean is the founder of Reaching for Higher Ground Consulting – a Communication, Performance, and Development Company, President of Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre, and is Executive Producer of the Harriet Tubman Freedom Music Festival, New York Dance Festival, and the Global Dance Initiative.  He has worked with several Senators and Congressmen and is a Conference Designer, Fortune 500 Executive Life Coach, Mediation Expert, and Motivational Speaker that uses the arts to teach Personality Development and Emotional Development for Corporations and Executives. He teaches Life Skills to Teens, Parental communication skills to adults, and does Family Development intervention for public schools and universities.

Sean McLeod is President of the New York Institute of Dance & Education and the recipient of countless awards including the coveted Jefferson Award for Public Service to America founded by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the New York State Liberty Award (the NY Senate’s highest honor), and the NAACP Trailblazers Medal of Honor.  Sean was inducted into the Auburn Music Hall of Fame and is presently working with the legendary Wycliffe Gordon on new arrangements of “A Soundtrack for Harriet Tubman,” a suite of songs he composed nearly 30 years ago. Sean is noted for promoting talent everywhere he works and has personally awarded over 400 thousand dollars to established and emerging artists.

Mr. McLeod attended the Conservatory of Dance at the State University of New York at Purchase and has established himself as a successful Consultant and Executive Corporate Advisor. An expert creator, strategist, and wordsmith, he assists CEO’s and their teams connect their products with greater audience understanding and appeal.

Sean is a Master Teacher and acknowledged developer of movement systems, most notably his codified McLeod Technique “MT”, MT Afro Hip Hop, Training For Athletes – TFA, and Reinforced Motor Function ® RMF which are taught globally. Mr. McLeod works in New York City as well as in major cities across the Globe. He is an expert in Emotional Development, Personality Development, and Body Alignment and created the syllabus for university study at the State University Of New York at Cayuga College that he also taught at RIT. Sean developed the Black Ballet Discovery Project, the Black Ballet Creative Workshops, and launched the Black Ballet Choreographers Symposium and Commission Conference in LA in 2018 launched with Denise Saunders Thompson and the International Association of Blacks in Dance. He believes you can be anything you want, provided you prepare yourself, share immensely, and help others be significant too.

As a Black Intellect, Sean has had countless commissions from Universities to the Federal Government. He has provided master classes, taught, or lectured about business and the arts for several colleges and universities including Wells College, Syracuse University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Howard University, Purchase College, Adelphi University and more.

For nearly 30 years Sean has led the Applied Study Program at NYIDE providing business, teaching, and performance training for college students, emerging and professional dancers, and dance teachers.  That program led to the creation of a Partnership with Cayuga Community College where Sean’s turn key and time tested dance development programs were introduced through the Continuing Education division of the two year college.

As a Black Choreographer Sean has had countless commissions from Universities to the Federal Government. At the beginning of his career Sean McLeod used choreography and dance to present experiences that challenged the way minorities and people of color are seen in contemporary society. 30 years later Sean additionally uses movement to help women and girls around the globe to find their self value in life and survive well in dance. Sean McLeod is an altruistic “believer in people,” whose purpose is moving people to tangible action, personal responsibility and aiding those in social conflict.

To meet this need, Sean McLeod founded the New York Institute of Dance & Education; Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre (KDT); the New York Dance Festival; the New York Center for Health and Healing; the Fine Arts Dance Association (FADA); the Educational Tour on Self-esteem through Dance; Community of Color World Culture Celebration; Circles-Expanding Horizons Program; Mission to South Africa; Reaching for Higher Ground Consulting, Change International, “Moving Past Racism” City Healing Series, the Carmen De La Vallade Award for Dance, the Janet Collins Fellowship, the Global Dance Initiative and more.

Photo Credit: Mark Andrew

Tammy Reese: Describe your Black Excellence in 3 words?

Sean McLeod: Seeing other people

Tammy Reese: Why is Black History Month important to you?

Sean McLeod: Every month is important to me, and every day is important to me, and every minute of every day is important to me. But, our American society has decided that in this month, this month of February, this “Black History Month” if you will, they’ll actually pay more reticent attention to Black people.

Allow us, if only for a moment, to be paid near our value, to be treated as though our words make a difference. And while that may be true, every minute, of every day, of every month, in my life, it is proven that it is beneficial to be seen in this month, where they have decided to see us. 

Tammy Reese: As a Black Creative & Entertainer what creative endeavors are you planning during Black History Month?

Sean McLeod: Humbly, we are celebrating the 30th Year of the New York Institute of Dance & Education, as well as the continued celebration of the 30th year of the Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre.

So, in Black History Month, we plan to have a couple of virtual events, where some very insightful panel discussions about access, equity, and the color of opportunity are discussed.

As well as a few virtual performance concerts from our archives and a special conversation continuing the series “In the Footsteps of Martin”.

We also will be formally celebrating the release of the new album, “Freedom” (Sean McLeod’s “A Soundtrack for Harriet Tubman”).

Tammy Reese: The Harriet Tubman Freedom Music Festival is Legendary. What can we look forward to this year?

Sean McLeod: We can look forward to an extension of celebrating 2020’s National Harriet Tubman Freedom Award recipients over the next few months, and announce the 2021 Recipients, as we prepare for what will be a wonderful virtual Festival this summer, again due to the pandemic.

Because of the Pandemic, it will certainly make the notion of understanding that a “World-class Celebration of What it Means to be Free” even more central to our collective embrace.

Tammy Reese: What are you currently working on?

Sean McLeod: I am currently working on another album project, premiering 2 new choreographic works, and a few other projects which are in the midst of development, but too early to announce. 

Tammy Reese: How have you adapted personally and professionally during the pandemic?

Sean McLeod: I think I have become far more reflective, less willing to take on losing battles, and more willing to take on battles that are rooted in necessary fights.

Tammy Reese: Who are some of your favorite Black Entertainers of all time and why?

Sean McLeod: To ask “What are my favorite Black Entertainers or Performers?” is to ask me “What is my favorite part of the wind?” Separation or disconnection of any element would render it nearly unidentifiable.

My favorite Black Entertainers are every entertainer that has tried, whether you know their name or not. I clearly understand that I exist only by the example that they set, the doors that they opened, and many of those doors wedged open by the weight of their then lifeless bodies.

So, I dare not say who is “my favorite Black Entertainer” and their impact on me, but rather acknowledge the greatness of their acts and the universal benefit that I have inherited.

Tammy Reese: Not only are you an entertainer you’re also an entrepreneur. What words of advice would you have for aspiring Black entrepreneurs?

Sean McLeod: My word of advice for an aspiring Black Entrepreneur is to not get trapped, misled, or shackled by a definition such as “Entrepreneur” or “Business-person” or “Chef” or “Singer”.

Rather, allow only the necessity of the moment to define you, and then your role would be to acquire the skill to not only survive the moment but thrive out of that moment.

So don’t say you’re not something, nor agree that you are something, rather, understand the action of what you are doing is in fact who you are and what you are until you have completed that task.

Tammy Reese: What are some words of encouragement for the Black Entertainers who may feel discouraged during these unprecedented times?

Sean McLeod: Everything you need is only a phone call away. An email away. An Instant message away. And your job is simply to figure out who you need to send it to.

Photo Credit: New York Institute of Dance & Education
Keep up-to-date with Sean McLeod and his renowned and inspirational career journey by connecting on social media: @seanmcleodofficial.

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