Touring percussion show hits Jubilee Auditorium Nov. 22-27
As Broadway Across Canada's touring production of Stomp makes its way into Calgary next week, it will act as a homecoming for one performer in particular.
Edmonton-born tap dancer Lisa La Touche moved to Calgary at the age of six and spent the next 13 years of her life calling Calgary home. From Nov. 22 - 27 La Touche will be taking the stage at the Jubilee Auditorium in the unconventional percussion-based show.
"Growing up, I had competitions at the Jubilee which is why it's really cool for me come back and do a professional show on that stage," said La Touche by telephone from Edmonton after wrapping the show's run there.
For La Touche, the return to Calgary brings her career full-circle. She started dancing in Calgary at the age of eight and was inspired to do so by her parents.
"My mom used to take tap lessons when she was younger, so she showed me a little time step and I thought it was cool," La Touche said.
Soon La Touche found herself as part of the local dance community and a member of Calgary's Premiere Dance Academy. At the academy, instructor and owner Lisa Svecla was her teacher.
"She is talented and dedicated," said Svecla of La Touche. "It's pretty great to know that one of the kids I taught is pursuing her career, especially a tap dancer. It's not as common as other formative dancing."
By the age of 19, La Touche had her first paid gig. She performed for the World Petroleum Congress under the direction of choreographer Sean Cheesman of "So You Think You Can Dance: Canada" fame.
Until then, "It didn't dawn on me that I could actually get paid to do what I love to do," La Touche said.
With this new realization, La Touche moved to Toronto to be part of a larger arts scene. She wasn't there long before she jumped a bus to New York City, N.Y., to take part in a tap festival taught by jazz legend Gregory Hines.
"This is it. This is where I'd really like to be," said La Touche of the spontaneous road trip. "It inspired me to move back home to Calgary to save my money, so I could travel to New York to train."
Within these two years spent in Calgary, La Touche met tap dancer Bril Barret, founder of Chicago-based dance group M.A.D.D. Rhythms, and was asked to join the group.
"He was one of my first real tap dancer mentors," La Touche said. "Even though I had it in my heart to go to New York somewhere in there I was inspired to move to Chicago."
La Touche spent two years dancing with M.A.D.D. Rhythms in Chicago, Ill., before finally moving on to New York.
One of the most memorable moments for La Touche was sharing the stage with tap dancer Jimmy Slyde.
"It really hit me that I was performing as a tap dancer," said La Touche of the experience. "I was in the same show with this master and legend. Jimmy Slyde was the godfather of tap dancing to so many people."
More recently, La Touche has planted her roots working in New York. She is a regular performer at the World Famous Cotton Club.
"Working at the Cotton Club in New York still resonates with me," said La Touche. "I see all these famous people with pictures up on the wall, it's really cool to be able to perform there."
In April of this year, La Touche auditioned for Stomp. The long process led her to a spot in the off-Broadway company. La Touche was asked to substitute for the touring production for the month of November. The opportunity happened so quickly that her name will not appear in the playbill.
"I looked online and saw that the show was going to be in Edmonton and Calgary. It was meant to be in so many ways," La Touche said.
Danny Nielsen, a former student of La Touche's who was part of La Touche's M.A.D.D. Rhythms Canada company in Calgary, describes her as "passionate and driven."
"When I was dancing in her tap dance company . . . Sunday night rehearsals were the highlight of my week," said Nielsen. "It was then that I really developed my appreciation, love and passion for tap dance."
Despite the successes that La Touche has had, she remains grounded and doesn't forget where she came from.
"One of the most important things I've learned is to remain genuine," said La Touche. "Moving away made me so proudly Canadian. "Here [in Canada] there is that friendly neighbour vibe; we really see the good in everybody."
- By SCOTT KINGSMITH