Leonard Harper was a producer, stager, and choreographer in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance which occurred during the 1920s and 1930s.
Harper was known as the best in his profession and his worked spanned through the worlds of vaudeville, cabaret, Broadway, and burlesque. He coached numerous acts including those of Fred Astaire, Adele Astaire, the Marx Brothers and Ruby Keeler. He also co-directed and staged the ensemble segments of The Exile and the short film Darktown Revue with Oscar Micheaux.
Harper was born in Birmingham, Alabama on April 9, 1899. His father, William Harper was a performer. As a young child, Harper started dancing to attract crowds to a medicine show wagon that traveled throughout the South. He first toured in New York in 1915, and later went on to Chicago.
While in Chicago, he began choreographing and performing dance acts with Osceola Blanks of the Blanks Sisters, who became the first black act for the Shubert Brothers.
By 1925, Harper already owned a dance studio, Time Square, where black dancers taught their moves to white performers. As a nightclub and Broadway producer, Harper counted Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Bill Robinson, and numerous others.