Last fall, “Backstage Pass” with behind-the-scenes video by Tom Ramont gave readers an inside look at The Dance Project’s “Cascade Christmas,” from auditions to performance. “Off Stage” is a chance to meet the cast and crew of the Dance Project without the costumes, choreography or stage make-up. Each profile offers a peek inside their lives, a glimpse of what inspires them to perform and an appreciation for making a living in the arts in the North State.
Contrary to what he portrays on stage, Louis Licon didn’t emerge from the womb dancing. He developed his stage chops during 50-cent-admission “Brown Bag” comedy sketches in middle school and got hooked on dance while swinging, tapping and swaying with Kids Unlimited at age 15. At 16, he performed for the Dance Project and has been a part of James Santos and Company since.
What was the “ah ha” moment when you decided that you wanted to perform?
I’ve always loved performing. During lunch in middle school we would do a comedy sketch show in the drama room called Brown Bag. In high school I did plays like “Clue: The Musical” and “Grease” but I didn’t really know that I wanted to dance until I auditioned for Kids Unlimited. That audition was the first I had ever been to, and I was terrified! But once I got through it I knew that dance felt right.
What was your first theatrical performance? Do you remember how you felt on stage for the first time?
I remember loving the feeling I got when I performed for “Brown Bag.” I think I liked it so much because the sketches I performed were all my own. The jokes were things I would make up and put into scripts so when the audience would laugh, they were appreciating my sense of humor. The first time I performed, the stage felt like home to me.
Then comes the next “ah ha” moment when you decide to dance professionally. What made you kick it up a notch?
I went to see The Dance Project’s spring performance in 2006 and I loved it! I danced with Kids Unlimited for the summer and James told me to come to the audition in August. Of course I wanted to be a part of the company. I figured if James thinks I can hack it at the audition, I should probably go and try it out.
Give me some perspective about life as a young male dancer.
I realize that as I get better as a dancer, the choreography gets harder, so I’ve got to work harder to get it precise. As I get stronger, there is more expected of me physically. For example, if I had tried to lift the girls the way I do now when I first started, it wouldn’t have happened. But now since I can lift the girls, I’ve got to stay strong and hit the gym every week. There is always one more step you’ve got to take as a male dancer to stay on top of things.
Is there anyone that you feel was a mentor for you?
James (Santos) has been my mentor since I started dancing at 15. He was always willing to work with me and he has always believed in me. Sometimes James would tell me, “I wouldn’t ask you to do it if I didn’t think you could.” That has always stuck with me and I think it will for a long time. I remember in high school we had to do a research project on our prospective career choice. I chose “dancer” and I interviewed James as a professional in the business. He has always been there for me in any way I needed him.
What was the very first audition for the Dance Project like? (You can be truthful. James won’t read this.)
Oh jeez, that was 5 years ago! I don’t really remember the details but I remember being VERY scared. It was before the auditions were held at the Cascade so I had to drive to the U-Prep studio. I remember seeing the board members sitting at a long table, watching us, and jotting down notes. I was very intimidated but, as they are at any audition, everybody was really sweet and supportive. I went home and I received the call that I would be a company member, and that’s when I started to get nervous about rehearsal … ha, ha.
Do you have any favorite Dance Project moments?
Too many to count! Every day is a blast with The Dance Project. I love all of the moments we have together at the theater because that’s when the show starts to take its true form and everybody starts to let loose and have a lot of fun. The dressing room is probably where we joke around and have the most fun. Also this year was my first year as a Dance Captain for the singers and that is definitely a favorite moment. I like it because it gives me a responsibility to the company and it also gives James and I a chance to hang out and joke around with the singers and with each other.
How about your most embarrassing stage moment?
Well, unlike Tiffany, I’ve never been videotaped throwing up on the side of the stage, so there’s nothing too embarrassing. There was the time we were doing the Christmas waltz for our friends and family and we tried to add a snow effect with some dry ice along the floor. The dry ice created a lot of condensation on the dance floor and we were all slipping and sliding! It looked like we were trying to dance on a frozen pond. Needless to say, the snow effect was cut from that number.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m studying at the Institute of Technology to be a Certified Pharmacy Technician. Once I have my certificate I plan on moving. I haven’t decided where I want to live, but wherever I go I plan on auditioning for every dance opportunity. My goal is to support myself by being a pharmacy technician and then use that stability to reach my goal of performing as a career.
Do you have any advice for young dancers just getting their feet wet?
I would tell them to stop getting their feet wet and jump in! I didn’t start dancing until I was 15 and I wish I would have started when I was 5. If dance is something that makes you feel good inside, like it does me, don’t wait around for opportunity to hit you on the head. Start trying out for anything and everything, take classes, and dance for yourself!
See Louis perform with the Dance Project in the new show, Steppin Out, March 19-27 at the Cascade Theater. For more information, visit thedanceprojectredding.com. For tickets, call the Cascade Theater Box Office at (530) 243-8877 or visit cascadetheater.org.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studiosand are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your North State events to firstname.lastname@example.org.