In memory of
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Leonora Stapleton, this 4th of October 2021. It was a Monday morning. Leonora was surrounded by her family.
Leonora was an immensely talented choreographer and dancer, who had been part of the original cast of Broadway's "The Lion King" and "Tarzan".
After beating cancer the first time around in 2017, she devoted herself to projects designed to help others benefit from her experience, as well as various charity organizations in Leeds. The cancer came back in 2020, and despite being more and more aware that she wouldn't win a second time, she still kept smiling and remained positive until the very end, and wouldn't let anyone worry about her.
She was a sister, an auntie, a teacher, a mentor, a volunteer, and a friend to many around the world. She was a truly beautiful soul. She was the best of us.
Leonora, we'll miss you. May you live forever as a never-ending source of inspiration, to all of us.
Leonora's passing occurred at a particular time in her and her family's lives, and we would like to help them as much as we can, by providing financial support for her funeral, as well as to help her family carry on her work and her legacy.
I met Leonora just once at my job. She came and touched my heart and gave me a whole new perspective and outlook on life. She shared the incredibly inspiring story of her life. Her career, her battle with cancer and her perspective. As a performer I was just in awe of such a beautiful soul who complemented me and my spirit. She taught about how to remain optimistic as she shared her outlook on the path to the wellness. I have never felt more compelled to pay my respects and let you know in our brief interaction she made me feel at home and appreciated. May she Rest In Power. Xx
Leeds, United Kingdom
I remember how amazing it was to work with Leonora at The Lion King. We knew each other from before at the Ailey school, the Donald Byrd company and the dance world at large but Leonora was legendary at Lion King. I remember once there were no male dancers to cover the “Dead Gazelle” part in this one dance. Leonora not only knew the role but went out and performed that night and just nailed it. Everyone was impressed and singing her praises. To this day she is the only woman to have performed the role in the Broadway production. Strength, talent, beauty and grace. Leonora’s stunning physique and her gorgeous head of hair truly set her apart from so many yet you would never know it. She was always humble and wanted only to genuinely connect with all of us. Such a beautiful caring soul. I greatly admire her. Her spirit was unlike anyone. So positive and driven even when she wasn’t sure of the outcome. She led with love and respect first and foremost and she knew that she was blessed. I always knew Leonora to work hard towards excellence. Losing her and having to accept that she won’t be walking this Earth with me is difficult to manage. I’ve been struggling with this reality. I have come to know that I will feel the love and inspiration she gave me for the rest of my life. I hope to be the joy she brought to all she knew. I will miss her laugh and what she called our ‘chin wags’. Basically hours long chats about everything and anything that came to mind. I will miss my precious friend and one of the best people I know. I send my love and support to Rosemary and all the Stapleton family and wish us all the ability to move through the sorrows of our broken hearts with the healing strength of Leonora’s memory💔❤️🩹❤️
The Lion King
New York, United States
I was dancing in Blue Mercury with Loris Beckles directing. Leonora and I danced together in that company. One performance at Ailey’s studio she was in pain and in a fetal position on her side on the floor. I sat next to her and worked on her body. I had no massage training. Pure instinct. She got up and danced beautifully. As she always did, but so did I. My core was activated and I had an aha moment of my blossoming interest in bodywork and massage. I had since moved to Maui where I studied massage in 1998. I have been practicing massage ever since.
Maui, Hawaii, USA
I first met Leonora at the Ailey School where we were dance students. She was so wonderful to me. I just remember being in AWE of Black people with British accents I'd never been exposed Beautiful black and brown people from the UK. I recall there were a few Black Brits studying at The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center as it once were. Hopal, Gary Grant, and the very posh but funny Anna Marie. Leonora was always encouraging me to not be afraid of my height and long limbs she would always offer me Biscuits which I soon found out were what we here in the U.S. call cookies. What I will remember the most is her warm and nurturing spirit. But... Let's be REAL, That Body, and THOSE EARTH SHATTERING FEET. There... NUFF SAID (Smile).Rest Well Dancing Queen you are, and if you wouldn't mind, Please sprinkle your Beautiful Fairy dust down here on my feet so I can say I got these FEET from Leonora (smile) all kidding aside thank you for being so kind to this kid from Washington DC with dreams that you would always say were obtainable. You are an AMAZING BEAUTIFUL SPIRIT that will be missed.
New York City, USA
... very sad 😢you left us much too early 🙏... you were an impressive personality, a particularly talented artist and respectful person ... you gave so much with your talent ... I met you at the production Disneys TARZAN in Hamburg 2008, we have met again and again in Stuttagart and again in Oberhausen till 2018 .
Your extremely talented body language, for dance, coaching and personally human being always remains in my heart 💞 ... r.i.p. dear Leonor 🙏
Rüdiger (RUDI) Reschke
Disneys TARZAN (as Clayton)
Hamburg - Stuttagart- Oberhausen, Germany
Social media is a strange thing.. it’s its own thing. It has keep me connected to so many people I’ve taught, performed with, loved, and lost! The world has lost the most generous, the most gentle, most supportive… and when I tell you this woman DANCES HER ASS OFF! 🔥🔥🔥 I’m glad I was able to tell her many times when she was alive ❤️❤️❤️❤️. You will not find one person who will ever have something bad to say about Leonora Stapleton. Oh she was remarkable! Rest well my Queen! 🥲🥲🥲
The Lion King, Donald Byrd/ The Group/ Harlem
Kent, Ohio, USA
Sending our deepest sympathy to all the family. Leonora was a lovely woman and relative she will surely be missed xxx
Annetta Liburd and Sisters
West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
My tribute to the late Leonora.
In the 70’s I would hang out at the stapeltons home in harehills, as one of the “creation stepper” gang members, as so was Leonora’s brother, that’s, how long we go back.
I was aware that Leonora was quite popular in the community, as she would always participate in the yearly Leeds carnival. But it wasn’t until 1977 when films such as, “Saturday night fever, Staying alive, & fame hit the scene, that catapulted a dance boom in our community.
Anyway, Leonora convinced me to join the Saturday dance group in which she was a member of, at the community center in chapeltown, after a trial lesson, I then became a member of the group “groove line”, a kinda hot gossip styled dance group.
Leonora then convinced me to participate in another dance group in which she was also involved in during the week, so off I went again, and before I knew it, I was a member of the acclaimed dance group “Mara ya pili”..
From here on she was my idol & mentor, not only for introducing me to the world of dance, like she’s done for so many others, but by observing the passion she had towards dance, simulated the road to my success...
Leonora was one of the sweetest, kindest, lovable & helpful person you’ll ever find in the world of dance, her knowledge of her chosen profession was emends.
Whilst Leonora, was putting up Tarzan in Hamburg, we were able to spend valuable time together, as we also did in New York shortly after 9/11. It was in 2018 when Leonora, informed me of her illness, but knowing she was a fighter, she vowed she’d be ok, Leonora didn’t want people worried about her... 2019 was sadly the last time due to covid that we saw each other visually.. our last chat was January 21..
Although today, so many lives are being suddenly taken, Leonora’s passing has left me devastated... you just don’t imagine someone so gentle and gracious no longer being around.
Rest in eternal peace Leonora, your legacy will live on..🙏🏾
My deepest condolences goes out to, Delroy, Rosemary, Yasmine, Annette, & the rest of the stapeltons family..
Lots of love
Phillipe A Blair
Phillipe A Blair
Mara ya Pili - Lion king - Tanzparterre