Artistic Director & Choreographer: 

Kelli Leighton

Kelli Leighton is the artistic director and founder of the award-winning company CORE Contemporary Dance (formerly known as CORE Dance Collective). Her countless achievements as an artist and educator have earned her recognition on local, national, and even international levels. Kelli’s past opportunities as a working performer include scholarships from such respected institutions as the Edge Performing Arts Center, a guest performance on the Today Show, and memberships with the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. Since settling in Sacramento, Kelli has made a remarkable impact on the local culture through her work as a creator and instructor. For both the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons, she was awarded the title of Dance Educator of the Year for the region. Kelli is deeply committed to excellence in training young dancers, and many of her students go on to attend prestigious national and international dance programs after graduation.

Kelli founded CORE in 2007 and still maintains her original position as the company’s Artistic Director. In March 2011, her work “Silent Noise,” performed by CORE and choreographed in collaboration with the works of artist Gottfried Helnwein, debuted as the first dance piece ever to be commissioned by the Crocker Art Museum. Other works she created with CORE were featured at such prestigious events as the White Wave Festival (2011) and the International Choreography Competition (2012), where she was a finalist and the recipient of much critical acclaim. Additionally, Kelli's award-winning work, "Home," was a finalist in the 2013 Palm Desert Choreography Competition at the McCallum Theater. Her vision for CORE is to promote a healthy professional environment where dancers of all backgrounds come together to inspire each other and enrich their surrounding community through exploration of the human experience. Kelli constantly pushes herself to go beyond her “comfort zone” with her choreography, resulting in a very wide range of creative work. Her unique athletic contemporary style along with a contagious passion and energy for dance has made her one of the most sought after master teachers and choreographers in the dance community.

The Dancers

CORE's dancers come from all over the United States- from all walks of life and a wide range of training backgrounds. What unifies us is the passion we share for creating meaningful dance experiences and sharing our passion with the community in which we live. We are friends, mentors, teachers, dreamers, and doers. 


Board of Directors 2018

Marguerite Knipe, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology) – President

Monique Gresens – Secretary

Susie Walker – Treasurer

Kelli Leighton – Artistic Director

Nancy Payne – Board Member


Photography: Kevin Fiscus Photography, CMYK Photography, Affinity Media Services

Costuming: Connie David & Cathy Carpenter

Lighting Design: Myke Kunkel

Graphic Design: Andrew Hopper

Outreach Coordination:  Jenni Anderson

Our Training Facility: Leighton Dance Project

Leighton Dance Project is the innovative new dance studio owned and directed by CORE’s Artistic Director Kelli Leighton. The studio embodies her philosophy to celebrate dance as a tremendously powerful art form and provides a complete and well-rounded education to dancers, instilling technique and discipline as well as nourishing passion for dance. Instruction is available for all ages, and includes classes in contemporary, jazz, tap, ballet and hip-hop. As the home of CORE Contemporary Dance, Leighton Dance Project provides the students and community with an ongoing connection with a professional dance company, both as artists and role models.