Michael Leslie in Conversation

Explore Michael Leslie’s remarkable life and career
Saturday 8 June: Join us for a talk by dancer, choreographer and educator Michael Leslie.

William Yang’s 1976 photograph of Michael Leslie is one of the most powerful images of the Biennale of Sydney at the Chau Chak Wing Museum. Now hear from Michael as he speaks about his experiences leading up to that photograph and in the decades since.

Join us at the Chau Chak Wing Museum for a unique opportunity to hear Michael Leslie in conversation, as he discusses his remarkable career in dance, choreography, education, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, performance, theatre, advocacy and politics.

From his childhood to Brand Nue Dae, from Black Swan to being a member of Paul Keating’s Creative Nation cultural policy panel, Michael brings an unique perspective and this is a fantastic opportunity to hear him reflect on these experiences.

About Michael Leslie

Born on Christmas Day in 1956, Leslie's early years unfolded during the pivotal shift from the 'protection and segregation era' to the 'assimilation era', marked by the 1965 Freedom Rides in Moree and the 1967 referendum. A shy Murri kid with a dream in his eyes, Leslie overcame the challenges of his modest upbringing in a railway fettler tent beside the main Northern Line at Berowra and later in public housing in Miller and Green Valley during the 1970s—a time of dynamic change in fashion and music. A turning point came when he was inspired by a woman dancing in a shampoo commercial, setting him on a path from facing adversity to becoming a champion for his people in the performing arts.

His training at the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre in NYC was a transformative experience. Upon returning to Australia, Leslie was driven to establish training institutions and programs dedicated to uplifting his community. His legacy includes the founding of influential entities such as Black Swan, Marrugeku, The Aboriginal Centre of the Performing Arts that ran under the aegis of WAAPA, ACPA, Pilbara Arts, and the Michael Leslie Foundation for the Performing Arts. Through these efforts, Leslie has not only forged an award-winning path for himself but has shaped innumerable prestigious careers in theatre, arts, music, and politics, and has embedded a powerful and Aboriginal presence in Australian arts and culture and across our society more broadly.

Michael will shortly appear on a segment of Tony Armstrong’s Extraordinary Things on ABC TV.

Related exhibition

24th Biennale of Sydney

Ten Thousand Suns

For the first time, the Chau Chak Wing Museum was an Exhibition Partner as part of the 24th Biennale of Sydney.

Presented with the Biennale of Sydney.

Header image: William Yang, Michael Leslie, Dubbo from AIDT Performance Dubbo, 1976 (series). Installation view for the 24th Biennale of Sydney (2024) at the Chau Chak Wing Museum. Presentation at the 24th Biennale of Sydney was made possible with generous assistance from Simon Chan AM Art Atrium. Courtesy the artist and State Library New South Wales. Photograph: David James.

Event details

Michael Leslie in Conversation

Saturday 08 June 2024
2.00PM - 3.00PM
Nelson Meers Foundation Auditorium
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