Kelly Ferris Lester

Associate Professor

Kelly Ferris Lester received her B.F.A. in Theatre and Dance from the University of Memphis and her M.F.A. in Choreography and Performance from The College at Brockport (SUNY). Lester is a certified teacher of the Bill Evans Method of Teaching Modern Dance, a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, and a Registered Yoga Teacher. She is the Co-director for Eastwest Somatics Institute for Yoga, Dance and Movement Studies and a certified teacher of Shin Somatics®. Lester teaches all levels of modern, beginning ballet, composition, music for dance, Repertory Dance Company, production, and dance appreciation in many models.

Lester’s deepest passion in dance is choreography and performance. Lester is a co-founder and company member of the Hattiesburg’s Hub Dance Collective, which performs several times a year in the Hattiesburg community and beyond. Lester’s choreography has been featured in the Mississippi Dance Festival (2017), The Mississippi Gulf Coast Fall Dance Festival (2017), South ACDA Gala (2016), Alabama Dance Festival (2016), Dumbo Dance Festival (2014, 2015), The Midwest Regional Alternative Dance RAD Festival (2014, 2015), BIODANCE’s Dance and Social Justice Series (2015), The Brockport Alumni Showcase (2014), Southeast ACDA Gala (2011), International Conference on Somatics-Based Dance (2015), Eastwest Somatics Symposium in Otago, New Zealand (2013), and several other venues across the nation.

Lester’s somatic movement education with mentor Sondra Fraleigh defines much of her teaching approach in the dance classroom. Lester’s chapter “Environments for Self-Learning” appears in Fraleigh’s book Moving Consciously: Somatic Transformations through Dance, Yoga, and Touch (2015) and her recent article “Somatics: A Buzzword Defined” was published in the Journal of Dance Education (2017). Lester presents scholarly research on this topic and other connections to somatic movement education, as well as approaches to teaching online at various conferences across the country.

Lester is the Treasurer for the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) and has served on the Board of Directors since 2011. Lester has been involved with the NDEO initiative Dance 2050: A Think Tank for Dance in Higher Education for many years and serves as the chair of planning for annual meetings. Lester has served on the Board of Directors for the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA, 2012-2015), and the New York State Dance Education Association (NYSDEA, 2008-2010). Other organizational credits include: 2016 South ACDA Conference—Conference Coordinator, Academic Council—Chair (2016-17), QEP Research and Design Team—Chair (2014-16), USM’s Teaching Forums—Co-Coordinator (2014-15), University Assessment Committee—Chair (2012-14), and Eastwest Somatic Institute—Program Coordinator since 2006. 

Additional teaching credits: The College at Brockport(SUNY), The University of Rochester, The Hochstein School of Music in Rochester, NY, The University of Memphis, The University of Mississippi, The Center for Art Education at the Memphis Arts Council, The Theatre for Youth Program at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, TN

Lester’s Awards and Recognitions at USM: The Peggy Jean Connor Research Award with Elizabeth Lentz-Hill (2016), Innovation in Teaching Award  (USM 2015), Summer Grant for Instructional Improvement (USM 2014); Faculty Fellowship CoAL Faculty Leadership Institute (USM 2013-14); Lucas Endowment (USM 2012); COAL Research Grant (USM 2011)