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Local dance instructor has “endless” energy

BY JULIA JESSEN | SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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Even Leslie Nolte’s street shoes look like they belong to a dancer. They are a light pastel shade of green, ballet flat shape, fitted closely to her feet. Seated on a couch in her dance studio with one leg tucked underneath her, she looks as if she could launch into a series of pirouettes at any moment.

Nolte is a University of Iowa dance and theater alumna, a mother of five, the artistic director of Affect Dance Company, and the owner of her own dance studio, the Nolte Academy of Dance, in Coralville.

Growing up learning ballet and jazz, she didn’t discover modern dance until she attended the UI, and she quickly fell in love with it. There was a feeling to the movements, she said, a feeling she got during her first modern-dance performance at Hancher Auditorium.

“I think I knew exactly what I was going to do after that,” she said. “There have been bigger [performances] since then, but I don’t think any have been as personally changing. I think that’s why that one’s my favorite.”

Nolte made the transition into owning her own business and shifting her focus more to choreography and teaching when she was only 22 years old with a new marriage and new baby.

She felt “artistically unfulfilled” and couldn’t find the kind of artistic outlet that she needed, so she decided to create her own studio. Some were skeptical that she could be successful and handle the challenges of starting a new business, but she was very committed.

“I think there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be good, and I think that came across when people started being skeptical,” she said.

Despite others’ doubt, Nolte always found a supporter in Herb Wilson, a local businessman. He first saw Nolte dance while she was in college. He came up to her after the show to tell her, “I love your spunk. You’re going to go far.”

Those words stuck with Nolte, and she sought his advice when she started her studio. Wilson has a lot of faith in Nolte; he values her talent and the way she uses it.

“Her passion for what she does is so tremendous,” Wilson said. “She is a great teacher. She’s a dedicated teacher. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does.”

The studio has become very successful and so has Nolte, winning numerous Choreographer of the Year awards and gaining national recognition.

However, she knows that success can be measured in many different ways.

“The choreography awards outside of here give me my professional accolades, whereas a 4-year-old saying, ‘I love you, Miss Leslie’ tells me I’m doing a great job,” she said.

Kim Martin, a parent at the studio who has known Nolte for eight years, agreed that she is an excellent teacher.

“She has an endless amount of energy both in her working life and her personal life,” Martin said. “She takes great care of the kids at the studio, and then she goes home and takes great care of her five children.”

What it all comes down to for Nolte is dancing. She strives to affect an audience and spark an emotion.

“If I can watch a dance and be moved, that’s fabulous, and if I can dance and move somebody else then I’ve done my job,” she said.


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