Leonardo Sandoval looks like the cute, fun guy that everybody liked in 11th grade chemistry class. Urkel-style glasses perched precariously on his nose, wild afro going every which way, lanky and broad shouldered, he’s friendly and adorable. But don’t let the look fool you. He’s no skate-boarding slacker. He’s a “Brazilian tap-dancing phenom” by all accounts. Creative Alliance is hosting the world premiere of his original production, Music from the Sole, written in collaboration with American bassist Gregory Richardson.
Leo has a charmingly fractured command of English, but has no trouble telling you about his life. He’s been dancing since he was six years old. Growing up in the small town of Piracicaba (São Paulo State) in Brazil, he started in ballet, but a year later discovered tap. It didn’t take long for the world to discover him.
By the time he was in his teens, he was a seasoned performer, appearing in productions and on television all over South America. At 18, he was invited to Los Angeles to attend the Debbie Allen Dance Academy on a full scholarship, as well as the L.A. Tap Festival. He went on to cofound a dance company in Brazil, Cia Carioca de Sapateado, with an eye towards bridging the worlds of Brazilian music and rhythms and tap. When he turned 21, he made the decision to move to New York.
In short time he found a place in the tap world on this continent. Through a chance meeting with Michele Dorrance, famed tap icon, he ended up joining her company and performing in venues as vaunted as Jacob’s Pillow, the celebrated dance festival. At 25, he was the youngest faculty member of Chicago Human Rhythm Project, America’s largest tap and percussion festival. In between, he spends time with yet another company, Apt 33.
Music from the Sole is his first full-length show as a choreographer and—surprisingly—a composer, having co-written a good deal of the music. The piece blends Leo’s life-long appreciation of Brazilian rhythms with his true love, tap dancing. He hopes that it will be the first in a career of creating his own productions.
Leo doesn’t deal in time lines or plotted plans of where he’ll be when. He’s confident that if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be satisfied with where his work takes him. He’d like to raise acceptance of tap as a peer dance form with ballet, jazz and modern. Music from the Sole is his first major effort to promote that goal.
When he takes the stage at Creative Alliance this month it will be with his mad skills on display, tapping his heart out to music he helped create. Luckily, his scientist boyfriend lives here, so Leo splits his time between New York and Baltimore. Regrettably, there is only one chance to see this gifted artist locally. This time. But if you miss it, he has plenty more to share. He’ll be around. And we’ll be watching.