Karen L. Charleskaren-l-charles-bio-photo-2022

Artistic/Executive Director

Karen L. Charles began dancing at the age of five in her hometown of Atlanta, GA at Jacob’s Dance Academy, Atlanta Ballet, and summer study at North Carolina School of the Arts. Karen graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Christian University with dual degrees in Ballet and Computer Science. While at TCU Karen was a member of the TCU Dance Ensemble performing and studying with James Truitte, Alicia Alonso, Gelsey Kirkland, Fernando Schaffenburg, Lisa Fusillo, Stephanie Wise, et. al.
Karen worked for Hallmark Cards and Westinghouse Credit Corporation immediately after college while dancing professionally for Pittsburgh Dance Alloy and Susan Warden Dance Company. Karen then traveled to NYC as a Fellowship Recipient at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre where she was cast in a work by Carl Paris. Karen returned to her hometown of Atlanta for nine years, where she taught high school Dance, Computer Science and Math and founded a local dance school -Discovering Dance. Karen also earned her M.Ed. in Administration from Georgia State University.

After moving to Minneapolis, Karen focused on arts education, becoming Principal at Perpich Arts HS and founding principal at Main Street School of Performing Arts (PIM). She also began to create and work with the local dance community. In 2010, after the death of her father, Karen decided to pursue her life-long dream of having a professional dance company. Threads Dance Project was founded in 2011. Charles has created over 40 works as founding Artistic/Executive Director that have been performed locally in the Twin Cities and nationally in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Her work, The Secrets of Slave Songs, was nominated for MN SAGE Dance Award in 2015 and her company was selected to host the McKnight International Choreographic Fellow (2017). Her work has been featured on TPT MN Originals and Karen has been recognized for her contribution to the Black Arts community – receiving the Archousa of the Year Award from Omicron Boule and the 2020 Celebrating the Sistas Award recognizes the excellence and contributions of Black women in the Twin Cities. Charles’s dance film, Out of the Ashes won the New York City Film & Television Best Performance Award in 2022. Karen, choreographed for PENUMBRA Theater’s Musical Girl Shakes Loose (2017)and Macalester College’s HAIR (2022). Karen was the Franklin Visiting Artist/Scholar at University of Georgia and had choreographic and teaching residencies at University of Iowa, Carleton College, Macalester College.

Karen continually works to serve the greater dance arts community. Karen founded the Tapestries Emerging Choreographer program which provides support to emerging female and BIPOC choreographers to help change the creator landscape in the Twin Cities and beyond. This program was recognized and partially funded by the Jerome Foundation in 2022 for its outstanding support of emerging dance artists. Karen has also served on review panels for National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Karen served as a board member for Dance/USA, Vocal Essence, Vice President of the Cowles Center for the Performing Arts Council and a member the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts Community Advisory Council, Council Chair for Dance/USA Directors Companies ($3M and below), member of the MN Artist Coalition.

Board of Directors & Artistic Advisors

Threads Dance Project’s Board of Directors is composed of members representing the world’s diversity as to ethnicity, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Members are united in their commitment to supporting the mission of the organization. Board activities are driven by an Annual Organizational Plan, a statement of individual fundraising and resource-development goals based on personal skill sets, and abilities.

The board meets regularly to fulfill its obligation of governance. The work of the board is carried out by committees that meet as needed. Key committees are Fundraising, Marketing, Organizational Effectiveness, Outreach, and Performance.

If you are interested in joining the Threads’ Board of Directors, please contact Artistic/Executive Director Karen L. Charles: kcharles@threadsdance.org.

Amanda Norman

NGE Holdings Inc.

Omarra Alexander 

Community Member

Traci Shannon

Children’s Theater Company

Alicia Phillips

Vice President

Ella McGrady-Wiley

Assistant Secretary

Amanda Thor


Lucia Nascimento

Avery Dennison

Kenneth Charles

Community Member

The Artistic Advisors are a knowledgeable group of professionals who consult and provide arts related expertise as needed. The Advisors have no legal or fiduciary responsibilities, but are advocates for the company’s mission and serve an integral part of Threads Dance Project’s artistic processes.

Diane Aldis

Herman Milligan

Mary Moore Easter

David O’Fallon

Linda Muir Finney