Dallas — Dallas native LaQuet Sharnell Pringle was bit by the Broadway bug at the age of six after seeing The Wiz National Tour in Chicago. An avid singer, Pringle performed in her first musical, The Velveteen Rabbit, at Bowman Middle school at age 12. Pringle went on to attend Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) where she studied ballet, modern, African and compositional studies as a member of the Advanced Repertory company. She also studied jazz, lyrical, tap, hip-hop and contemporary at The Dallas Powerhouse of Dance and The Centre for Dance, and participated in many local dance events, including the Dance Council of North Texas’ Dance Planet Festival and the Dallas Morning News Festival. Pringle was studying at the North Carolina School of the Arts when she landed her first Broadway gig in Sweet Charity.
Pringle is currently an adjunct professor in the Musical Theater Department at Texas State University. She also teaches at Ballet Austin and Tru Dance Project and is the founder of Fearless Young Artists, an organization devoted to providing extensive creative arts education to diverse youth who are interested in careers in the arts. Her dance career has come full circle this year as she was the headliner for Dance Planet 19 last April and will be performing at the second annual Dallas DanceFest, this coming weekend. Pringle will be performing Friday evening alongside Austin-based artists Amy Morrow and AJ Garcia-Rameau.
TheaterJones talked to LaQuet Sharnell Pringle about navigating through the Broadway industry, where jazz technique fits in today’s contemporary-driven world and what she has in store for audiences at Dallas DanceFest.
TheaterJones: How did you hear about Dallas DanceFest?
Pringle: I was most familiar with the festival of dance when it was called the Dallas Morning News Festival. Back then it was done in the [Annette Strauss] Artist Square. With the amazing new additions to Arts District, I was speaking with Gayle Halperin at Dance Planet 19 who informed me of the new name and vision.
What will you be showcasing at the Festival?
I will be premiering one part of a three-part piece that explores the masks worn when in my romantic relationships, my relationship to the business of show and reactions I have felt towards both. This piece has been cathartic and edifying experience for me. I have learned so much through the many re-writes of my text and through the choreography. I hope that audiences will experience this piece as a type of mirror I am currently looking at to better understand and grow from as I begin a new journey.
What was the auditioning process like for The Lion King and Memphis?
These shows could not be more different. The Lion King was a show that was already up and running. So, coming in the creative team knew exactly what they were looking for. Thank goodness for my modern dance training at Booker T. because the audition quickly weeded out the dancers without modern technique and acting abilities.
For Memphis, the process was a tad more relaxed in that they were looking for someone in particular while also not knowing what they were looking for. I am thankful that I was the right height, talent and person to work with the male dancer they were most looking to pair me with. For Memphis our choreographer looked for great jazz technique paired with character attachment to the movement quickly. I’d say the biggest difference was that with The Lion King I was breaking into the industry and with Memphis I was in “the biz” and aware enough to see the many moving pieces around me.
You were the headliner for Dance Planet 19 last year. What did you take away from that experience?
I mostly took away humility and openness to experience something greater than myself. Dallas in general is an incredible city to nurture incredible talents. Dance Planet 19 brings every young artist and parent into one place where we all grew, laughed, danced and sweated together. It was an incredible weekend of community.
What motivated you to start Fearless Young Artists?
Even as I began to perform professionally, I always had a leg in the studio—to teach and to learn. I began to realize the significant impact my teachers had on my development. They were professionals. They knew what it meant to be on stage, and more importantly get on stage. I saw that there were so many kids that didn't have access to the level of talent some have to learn from. FYA was born to create a place where the student could both watch the professionals from the audience then learn from them in class. As I continue to build FYA Workshops and Intensives around the country the DFW area will be first on the schedule and map. FYA will also offer scholarships to those young artists in need.
There is a lot of talk in the industry about how jazz technique is being overshadowed by contemporary in the classroom. As a jazz instructor what is your take on this? Where do you think jazz fits in today's contemporary-obsessed world?
Technique across the board is being replaced by contemporary and center combos. Somewhere along the line we began to teach our young artists about having enough likability to be on T.V shows. Many have stopped teaching marketability and the ability to be a chameleon as dancers and artists. It is now okay to microwave an artist rather than growing and nurturing young artists. Technique, whether it be ballet, jazz or modern or tap or hip hop, requires years of practice and it doesn't seem to me that the focus is on where the dancer will be 15 or 20 years from now. The great educators and studio owners within the arts have this ability to teach slow and steady wins the race while also enforcing a passion to express, from their individual perspectives, where the technique can take you within choreography.
» The second Dallas DanceFest is Sept. 4-6. Performances will take place on Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. with the 2015 Dance Council Honors awards ceremony and performance showcase occurring on Sunday afternoon.
» For a full list of this year’s DDF participants, including biographies, plus profiles, reviews and more, see our special section devoted to the DanceFest.
» To read a bigger feature about the event, go here.
» Tickets for both events are available through TICKETDFW: online at www.TICKETDFW.com, by phone 214-871-5000, or in person at the box office 2353 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201. For more information, go to www.dallasdancefest.org/