Brazilian Leonardo Sandoval grew up in the house of a drummer father. From the moment he got vertical, music coursed through him. Sandoval was so infectiously demonstrative in preschool, his teachers suggested the boy should have dance lessons. In preschool! Ballet came first at six, followed a year later, by tap, hip-hop, jazz… (Gregory Hines and The Nicholas Brothers are influences.) Fearing schoolmates’ derision, he kept classes secret for years.
Josh Davis, Jose Cruzata, Leonardo Sandoval, Gisele Silva, Gerson Lanza, Naomi Funaki, Lucas Santana, Ana Tomioshi, Orlando Hernandez
At 12, Sandoval appeared in the variety television show Xuxa Park MC’d by Xuxa Meneguel. Suddenly his art was public knowledge. To his profound surprise, friends were proud and supportive. He then became the “official dancer” in a broadcast program showcasing kids. It meant regularly traveling from Piracicaba to San Paolo. His parents drove him to the studio, competitions, live appearances. By the age of 14, Sandoval was teaching at the dancing school he attended. Scholarships for further study followed.
Admitting how difficult a career in dance might be, the young man matriculated at college studying arts production. After six months, dance won. Sandoval hears rhythmic soundtrack to his days; noise becomes tempo becomes music. What he heard and felt would never be subjugated. He dropped out and moved to Rio de Janeiro. Professional work came his way and a featured role in La Cage aux Folles kept the young man housed and fed a year. After that, the dancer busked and taught. This, he thought to himself, I could do In New York.
Gerson Lanza, Gisele Silva, Jose Cruzata, Leonardo Sandoval, Roxy King, Lucas Santana
Sandoval must be very good. The first year here, he made enough money to live on only busking. Following up on an acquaintance he’d made in Brazil, the performer took class with Michelle Dorrance who had her own company. She suggested Sandoval join Dorrance Dance. He secured an Artist’s Visa and stayed. It’s been ten years. Every time he travels with them, Sandoval has to first go back to Brazil before joining the troop. Nor does he have a green card yet. We make it hard.
A kismet meeting with Co-Artistic Director of Dorrance Dance (and double bass musician) Gregory Richardson, lead to their busking together. The two were discovered in a park and hired to put together a show for a venue in Baltimore. Music From The Sole, their own company, was formed with five musicians and three dancers. (Now there are eight.) The collaborators married. Sandoval taught at The Broadway Dance Center and Steps, but got busy with real work. He remains a member of Dorrance Dance while co-running Music From the Sole which now gets bookings and commissions.
Roxy King, Lucas Santana, Orlando Hernandez, Ana Tomioshi
Sole utilizes a combination of Samba, House Music (electronic), and Brazilian Funk – described as street movement influenced by urban Black America that rose in the favelas (slums) of Brazil. Dancers are all sizes and shapes. “We try to portray the reality of the world on stage. Tap is very democratic,” he says smiling. When traveling, community involvement is a given. Recently in Boston, Sole offered three workshops: One for the elderly, one for high-schoolers, and one for nine to eleven year-olds. The company now has an agent, Anne Camille, behind bookings.
The evening long show coming up at The Joyce Theater is called Carnival Fever Dream. Designed by Broadway costumer Dede Ayete, it promises to be vivid. The piece contains above influences plus Yoruba (African Diaspora music) and some actual ballroom dancing. When I ask if Sandoval does all the choreography, he qualifies his “yes” with the collaborative nature of the troop. Everyone is equal, musicians and dancers alike.
“I’m living my childhood dream, a very fortunate place to be.” Leonardo Sandoval
Photos by Titus Ogilvie Laing
Music From the Sole
The Joyce Theater
January 30-February 4, 2024
Tap, percussive dance, samba, house, and original live music come together in I Didn’t Come to Stay, an evening-length work