Photo by Erik Saulitis for James Sewell Ballet, 2004

Photo by Erik Saulitis for James Sewell Ballet, 2004

a fascinating and beguiling dancer—so lanky, loose, and idiosyncratic that his fine-tuned ballet chops take you by surprise...
— Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice
Justin Leaf was magnificently love sick in a Bizet song, alternating between caving in with despair and thrusting himself off balance.
— Wendy Perron, Dance Magazine
But Mr. Leaf nearly steals the show, as he does throughout the evening, with his long, looping body, goofy earnestness and mass of curls.
— Jennifer Dunning, New York Times

JUSTIN LEAF is a performance artist and ballet teacher based in Minneapolis. Originally from Hagerstown, Maryland, he graduated from the Juilliard School in 2001 with a BFA in dance performance.

DANCER • Justin was a company member of James Sewell Ballet from 2002 to 2008 and Minnesota Dance Theatre from 2008 to 2014. Independently, he has danced works by John Kelly, Morgan Thorson, and George Stamos, among others.

BALLET TEACHER • Justin studied ballet pedagogy with mentors Andra and Ernesta Corvino and is currently on faculty at Minnesota Dance Theatre & School. He teaches ballet for all levels and has taught company class for Minnesota Dance Theatre, James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Ballet, and Ballet Hispánico.

CHOREOGRAPHER • Justin’s choreographic work ranges from ballet and modern to theatre and cabaret and has been presented by Minnesota Dance Theatre, James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Orchestra, and Collective Unconscious Performance, among others.

SINGER • Justin is a singer of popular song ranging from jazz to pop to theater. His musical collaborators have included Rick Carlson, Jenny Case, Lori Dokken, Franco Holder, Rachel Holder, and George Maurer, among others.

CABARET ARTIST • Justin’s cabaret work spans dance, theatre, and vocal performance and flirts with uncategorizable gender-play, all genres of popular song, and the in-betweens of classical reverence and queer radicalism. Since 2006, Justin has presented numerous cabaret shows using popular song as a catalyst for storytelling, often through the persona of Mistress Ginger.

COOKBOOK AUTHOR • As Mistress Ginger, Justin authored Mistress Ginger Cooks!: Everyday Vegan Food for Everyone, a vegan cookbook published by Book Publishing Company in 2014.


  • Zaraspe Prize for Outstanding Choreography (2001)

  • Minnesota SAGE Award for Best Performance (2007)

  • McKnight Fellowship for Dancers, administered by the Southern Theater and funded by the McKnight Foundation (2009)

  • Next Step Fund Grant, funded by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (2014)