Atlanta-based contemporary dancer Leo Briggs centers work around trans and queer liberation

City Lights first “Speaking of Dance” segment features Leo Briggs, a nonbinary dancemaker based in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Tomas Ponce)

In 2021, “City Lights” began our series “Speaking of Art” to highlight the many diverse visual artists in our city. We have since expanded our series to include “Speaking of Music” and “Speaking of Comedy,” and today, we add “Speaking of Dance” to our collection.

Atlanta’s dance scene is vibrant and eclectic, and we are honored to highlight some of the many local dancers that move us with their movements.

For the first edition of “Speaking of Dance,” we feature Leo Briggs, a dancemaker based in Atlanta. Their dance, though presented for audiences in many contexts, often exists simply for themselves. “I tend to gravitate towards the horizontal plane,” said Briggs.

“I love to just roll and wiggle on the floor and find new patterns; new ways of interacting with the floor.” Briggs also likes to play with natural gravity, often letting their body bend to the direction of gravity rather than resist it – sometimes effort is less expressive than submission. 

From the age of eight, Briggs was fascinated with dance. Their parents took them to a production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite.” “I guess they thought I would be asleep 20 minutes in,” said Briggs, “But I was glued to the edge of my seat.” Progressing through ballet classes but chafing against its technical and prescriptive nature, they then gravitated toward choreography and more free-expressive forms of dance while pursuing the art at Emory University.  

“Most of my work is focused on the effort for trans and queer liberation,” Briggs explained. Briggs, a trans person, noted that the experience of transitioning has much to do with the body, and the journey of exploring its possibilities and truths. “The body itself can be an act of creation,” said Briggs.

Works developed and choreographed by the dancer include a solo piece inspired by the gay writer William S. Burroughs, as well as a piece exploring the story of Kitty Genovese, a gay New York woman who was murdered in 1964.

For Leo Briggs, the Atlanta dance scene is fertile ground for innovation. “There aren’t as many big companies that are sucking the resources away from small, local artists, so there’s a lot of room to take risks and experiment,” they said.

Briggs teaches a contemporary floor work open class at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center on Tuesday mornings and can be followed on Instagram at @lbriggsmoves.

Click the listen button to hear Leo Briggs dancing to music from Orville Peck.