This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to my good friend Leon Blackwood. Leon Blackwood is no stranger to Music and Movement and began to explore the possibilities of a Dance Life around the age of 15. Performing at church events and with school Dance crews, he began to build his choreography reputation starting the group Nu Limit in 2003. His strong performance skills and signature cool factor have landed him Dance roles in movies like “Honey” “Frenemies”, “Alvin and The Chipmunks 3” (Playing Alvin) and assistant choreographer and Dancer on “Cobu 3D.” Training in classes and workshops around the GTA and the U.S he joined the cast of 1 of the most noted Hip Hop conventions “The Monsters of Hip Hop” In 2009. Through his hard work and dedication he has been able to Dance with the likes of Lady Gaga, Jully Black and Kesha to name a few. Leon has been able to provide choreography for major events, networks and charities such as the YMCA, ICRF, Much Music, Toronto District School Board, SYTYCDC and more. His choreography can be seen on the Danny Fernandes “Rookie of The Year” European Tour, Massari’s “In Love Again” Promo Tour and most recently Blake McGrath’s “Stage Fright” Tour. He’s assisted Top Choreographers Luther Brown and Nappy Tabs on many projects from Artist video’s to major network programs like the Juno Awards and So You Think You Can Dance (American) He is currently assisting Do Dat Alumni and Choreographer Mark Samuels with a few upcoming artists. Continuing to build his craft he travels to L.A a few times a year to train with some of the industry’s leading Choreographers and Dancers. Leon holds a regular drop in class at OIP Dance Centre (Tues 830-10pm and Fri 7-830pm) and teaches at various competitive and non competitive studios in the GTA. He has become one of the most sought after Commercial Dancers and Choreographers in Toronto. Leon continues to hold the title of Nu Limit’s head choreographer sharing his passion for Dance and Movement around the world.
Bio provided by Nikki
Find out what Leon had to say in this weeks shout out…
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Leon: I think the first time I started dancing was when I was like 9 or 10yrs old… But that was more me just going full out and dancing around the place to music that would play on the radio lol. I started to take dance more seriously when I was about 15yrs old. Dancing in school dance crews and church events!
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Leon: I laugh every time I think back to the first routine I’ve ever done. I think I was 15 and I made a routine to Britney’s “Baby One More Time” and it was for a parent’s night at this camp I was attending, I choreographed the routine for my peers and myself. I felt so hyped about it, but the kid’s dem dropped out last min and I ended up doing a solo performance… It was Horrible (smh) lol.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Leon: To be honest I am not good at free styling. I find that I get caught up in my head some times and try to dance instead of just dancing. What I’m trying to train myself to do now is, to put my Ipad on shuffle and move to whatever song comes on. That way I can be more comfortable in my own skin and discover all the ways in which I can manipulate my body to move.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Leon: For me it really doesn’t take much. Just my Beats by Dre headphones, a dope track and I zone out…. Once I hear that track I start to see the choreo in my head and I go with it!
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Leon: Dang I got so many inspirations its crazy… But to list the most important ones people like Johnny Erasme, Candace Brown, Elysandra Quinones, Christian Owens, Laura Edwards, Madison Benson, Sohey Sugihara, Lee Daniels…. these people inspire my whole dance life. Being able to work and dance with them, I feel has made me and always pushes me to be a better dancer and performer.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Leon: Without a doubt in my mind Luther Brown. I have learned so much about myself, how to work hard, perform and feel the movement that you’re doing all from him! I look up to him in so many ways. He always pushes his dancers to their limits and brings the best out of them. I feel he is one of the best and most respected choreographers to come out of Toronto and of our time.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Leon: I would have to say dancing for Lady Gaga at the 2009 MMVA’s in Toronto. She was my first major artist gig! That was one of the hardest auditions I’ve ever had to go thru! The rehearsals were hard and stressful at times but it was all worth it! Being able to dance in that show and for her was definitely a blessing and a dream come true!
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Leon: I’m currently working on a few projects. I’m working alongside Choreographer/ Dancer Mark Samuels with an upcoming artist named Guinevere. She’s preparing for a US Tour in the New Year. Also in rehearsals preparing for a few shows with artist Frank Anthony, which is being choreographed by Rodrigo Basurto Garcia. December 11th at The MOD Club, I will be doing a piece at Choreographer’s Ball. I’m a little nervous about it because this one is a different style than people are used to seeing from me. But I’m excited none the less… And I will also be dancing in Shavar Blackwood’s piece. (No relation lol)
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Leon: I feel that Toronto dancers possess a lot of heart, passion and determination. And when that’s focused in the right place anything is achievable. I feel this newer generation of dancers to come out of Toronto definitely possess these qualities and it’s been very exciting for me as a choreographer to see that!
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Leon: My advice to Dancers: KEEP TRAINING! GET IN CLASS!!! Absorb all that you see and hear in class, from Choreographers, Teachers and other dancers… Push yourself to limits you never thought possible. Put 100% into everything that you do and always be FULL OUT!
Advice for Choreographers… Never stop learning. Use everything around you as inspiration. Find yourself a team of dancers that believe and trust your vision and never second guess yourself!We as Dancers and Choreographers need to remember that we do this for the love of it… Not the fame and fortune that are merely a bonus and blessing from God! Push and persevere thru any and all obstacles, and remember that you DON’T NEED Validation from anyone! So never doubt or second guess your talent. No one is alike, we all think and move differently…. This is what makes each and every one of us special in our own way! Be confident not cocky, be humble but not passive, know your worth and value. Always trust that God knows what is meant for you and what isn’t. And most importantly never lose sight of your Dreams!
THANK YOU LEON FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XOXOCHECK OUT SOME FOOTAGE OF LEON’S CLASSES….