Karen Long Charles was born in Atlanta, Georgia. She began her formal dance training at the age of 5 in a small local studio –Jacobs School of Dance. Karen trained at Atlanta Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts and Jacobs School of Dance until she graduated from high school.
Karen attended Texas Christian University (TCU) where received her B.F.A. in Ballet and B.S. in Computer Science. Later, Karen studied as a fellowship recipient at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Karen was injured while in the fellowship program and resolved to continue her dance career with regional companies.
Karen performed with the Pittsburgh Choreography Continuum, Susan Warden Dance Company (Kansas City) before returning to her hometown in Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, Karen performed with Room to Move Dance Company and opened her own dance school – Discovering Dance. Karen also taught dance, computer science, and mathematics in the Atlanta Public School System for nine years. Karen received a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Georgia State University.
In 2000, Karen moved to Minneapolis, MN where she worked as Co-Principal at Perpich Arts High School (2000-2002) and founding Principal of Main Street School of Performing Arts (2003- 2010). Karen choreographed numerous works for students at Perpich Arts High School and Main Street School of Performing Arts.
Karen was guest choreographer for the Summit Invitational Dance Program (2010) and she was commissioned as guest choreographer for James Sewell Ballet in 2013 to create a work for their Ballet Works Series. She was also choreographer for the renowned Penumbra Theater’s musical Girl Shakes Loose (2018). Karen has served on Minnesota State Arts Board and Metropolitan Regional Arts Council grant review panels and was a panelist for the 2012 Minneapolis SAGE Dance Awards.
Karen is the founding Artistic Director of Threads Dance Project – a contemporary dance company whose mission is to examine, expose and celebrate the threads that connect us. Threads has achieved a number of milestones including successful tours to Atlanta, GA, Philadelphia, PA and extended residencies at Carleton College, Macalester College, University of Iowa and University of Georgia, collaborations with Grammy-nominated a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, nominations for a Sage Dance Award, recognition in American Dance Abroad’s biannual publication Pitchbook, hosting McKnight International Choreographer Salia Sanou (Burkina Faso/France) who premiered a work on the company in Fall 2017, and opening a new community dance center, Threads Dance Nexus in 2021.
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