Andrea Simpson Fowler’s pride, passion and excitement beam throughout our half-hour interview.
Even though we are speaking over the phone, the long-time managing director of Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks (LFCD) exudes a contagious enthusiasm as she lists the accomplishments of the Yukon Dance Program that is now 10 years old.
There is Rodney Morgan, an alumnus of LFCD who has danced in music videos alongside international singing sensation Nelly Furtado and recently signed to her recording label.
The 19 medals were recently won at the 2009 Grand Prairie Regional Dance Festival, resulting in a medal haul that shattered the program’s previous three showings at the event.
Leigha Wald, another LFCD alumnus, today runs a successful studio in Vancouver.
Nick Robinson, a former student and current instructor with Groundwork Sessions, had a cameo on The Rick Mercer Report and continues to garner attention from the hip hop world in Toronto.
Yukoner Melissa Kwok studies dance in Toronto and teaches with Leaping Feats throughout the summer.
Simpson-Fowler says it the growing number of male dancers that might be her most proud feat, however.
“We have over 500 dancers and, of that group, 80 are boys,” explains Simpson-Fowler. “Eighty boys in the studio is a big deal.
“I almost tear up when I watch them sometimes because there is such a stigma associated with males dancing, but our boys are happy because they have a physical outlet and they love it.”
Leaping Feats has come a long way in the past decade.
It was just 10 years ago that Simpson-Fowler and her husband were deep in debt, pondering collecting welfare and barely affording their rent money, let alone host a dance program.
“We were so flipping broke,” says Simpson-Fowler.
Fresh off a Fine Arts degree from Simon Fraser University, and riding a $2,000 loan from her parents, Simpson-Fowler managed to secure a youth loan from däna Näye Ventures and, with that, open Leaping Feats’ studio doors.
Ten years later, the Chicago-born, long-time dancer can look back on Leaping Feats first days and smile.
“Each year, we’re taking bigger steps and we’re working really hard,” beams Simpson-Fowler, who next year plans to open two more dance studios in Riverdale, bringing the count to five.
“Today we have more than 500 students, two youth-instructed dance programs and 24 kids dancing more than 10 hours each a week. It wasn’t that long ago that people were calling me crazy for pushing for that.”
The growth of Leaping Feats will be showcased front and centre at the 10th annual year end recital.
Made up of four shows, the production will feature more than 325 students ranging in age from three to adult and including performances by the always-popular Extremely Moving Youth Society and Yukon’s own Groundwork Sessions.
Showtimes for the Recreation Program are May 29 at 7 p.m. and May 30 at 1 p.m. The Repertory Program showtimes are May 30 and 31 at 7 p.m. All shows are at the Yukon Arts Centre.