Photo by Erik Saulitis for James Sewell Ballet

Photo by Erik Saulitis for James Sewell Ballet


  • 2001 Zaraspe Prize for Outstanding Choreography
  • 2007 Minnesota SAGE Award for Best Performance
  • 2009 McKnight Fellowship for Dancers, administered by the Southern Theater and funded by the McKnight Foundation
  • 2014 Next Step Fund Grant, funded by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council

Vegan since 2002, Justin has been an advocate for plant-based eating to benefit animals, the environment, and human health. As Mistress Ginger, he wrote Mistress Ginger Cooks!: Everyday Vegan Food for Everyone, published by Book Publishing Company in 2014. The cookbook can be purchased through Mistress Ginger's website or through Amazon. Mistress Ginger has given cooking demos at Twin Cities Veg Fest, Portland VegFest, and Fargo-Moorhead VegFest.

“A lean, soulful dancer, with a wicked sense of humor and movement style of grace and generosity...”


Originally from Hagerstown, Maryland, Justin Leaf is a performance artist and ballet teacher based in Minneapolis.

Justin graduated from the Juilliard School with a BFA in Dance Performance in 2001 and was a leading dancer with James Sewell Ballet (2002 – 2008) and Minnesota Dance Theatre (2008 – 2014). Indepently, he has danced original works by John Kelly, George Stamos, and Morgan Thorson among others.

Justin has more than twenty years experience teaching ballet and has studied ballet pedagogy with master teachers Andra and Ernesta Corvino. Since 2012, he has been on faculty at Minnesota Dance Theatre & School, where he also manages the Open Division and serves as Ballet Master for the company. In addition to teaching ballet, Justin completed a 230-hour yoga teacher training through the Yoga Center of Minneapolis in 2011 and currently offers private hatha yoga instruction.

Justin's choreography has been presented by Minnesota Dance Theatre, James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Orchestra, NomadicLIMBS, Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts, and Junkyard Theater. His work will be featured in the Collective Unconscious Performance production of The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood at the Red Eye Theater in December 2016.

Since 2006, Justin has presented more than 20 original cabaret shows that bridge music, dance, and theater and often feature stage persona Mistress Ginger. In 2009, Leaf founded Junkyard Theater as a platform to develop these intimate works that use popular song as a catalyst for storytelling, with music blending theatre, pop, and jazz styles. As a vocalist, Justin has trained with Lori Dokken, Rachel Holder, Kenny Kiser, and Judi Vinar. In 2012, he attended the 10th Annual International Cabaret Conference, where he was coached by Sharon McKnight, Amanda McBroom, and the late Julie Wilson. To learn more about Justin's cabaret work as Mistress Ginger, visit