Kelly Ferris Lester

Associate Professor


Kelly Ferris Lester received her BFA in Theatre and Dance from the University of Memphis and her MFA in Choreography and Performance from The College at Brockport (SUNY). Lester is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, and serves as a trainer for Shin Somatics® at the Eastwest Somatics Institute for Dance and Movement Studies. Lester teaches all levels of modern and beginning ballet, composition, rhythmic analysis 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 based Hub Dance Collective, which performs several times a year in the Hattiesburg community and beyond. Highlights from her choreographic work includes: Shared Bond (2013) showcased in the Brockport Alumni Showcase (June 2014) and the Midwest Regional Dance Festival (March 2014); Clutching For (2011) selected for the Gala performance at the Southeast Regional ACDFA; Space in Between (2011), co-choreographed and performed with colleague Meredith R. Early, showcased at Sarah Lawrence College, The College at Brockport and the University of Rochester as part of a research grant through the USM College of Arts and Letters; Relative Triptych (2010) commissioned work for The University of Memphis; Spiraled Tides (2010) commissioned work for Project: Motion Dance Collective in Memphis, TN.


Lester believes that arts are essential in education and strongly supports the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). She is currently on the Board of Directors as the Director of Student Chapters. She has served as a board member of the state affiliate New York State Dance Education Association (NYSDEA) and coordinated a regional conference in 2006. She chartered NDEO student chapters at The College of Brockport and at the University of Southern Mississippi. She has chartered NDEO student chapters at The College of Brockport and at the University of Southern Mississippi. Other organizational credits include: Faculty Co-coordinator USM’s Teaching Forums (2014-15), Chair of University Assessment Committee (2012-14), Co-coordinator of the Northeast Regional ACDFA conference in 2008, and annual Eastwest Somatic Network conferences 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: 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); The Elsa Posey Student Scholarship for Organizational Leadership from NDEO (2006); The Graduate Friar’s Foundation Award (SUNY Brockport 2005), the Dean’s Creative Achievement Award (University of Memphis 2000) and The Cecil C. Humphrey’s Merit Scholarship (University of Memphis1996-2000); National Merit Scholar Finalist (1996).