Júlio T. Leitão, Founder/Artistic Director
Júlio T. Leitão is a dancer, choreographer, and the founder of Batoto Yetu in the US and Portugal. Born in Luena, Angola, from which he was forced to flee when civil war erupted in 1975, Mr. Leitão grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, and received his initial dance training at Conservatório Nacional de Dança de Lisboa. He began his career in Portugal performing on the TV show “Um, Dois, Três (1984) , and in the award winning play, “Fígados de Tigre“ for Teatro Nacional D. Maria II. He came to New York to train in classical ballet at the Dance Theater of Harlem, and also studied with Maggie Black, Bessie Schonberg and at the Joffrey Ballet School. Julio’s performance credits include appearances with the Princeton Ballet, the Kathryn Posin Dance Company, and the Eglevsky Ballet. Julio has worked extensively as a choreographer in the US and overseas.
In 1990, Mr. Leitão founded Batoto Yetu in a Harlem playground. Within one month, the group performed on Staff Day at the United Nations, receiving a standing ovation. Since then, Batoto Yetu has served as an invaluable asset to New York City youth. The dance company’s outstanding accomplishments have included preformances on Sesame Street, with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston at such acclaimed venues as Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theatre, and on international stages in Portugal, China, and Angola, among others. Julio is a recipient of a 2001 Samuel and May Rudin Community Service Award from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School for Public Service for his contribution to the arts in New York City, and a 2003 Children’s Champion Award from Child Magazine for his commitment to the children of New York City. Julio co-authored African Dance: Drumbeat in Our Feet with Patricia Keeler which was published by Lee & Low Books in September 2004.