Dancer to Dancer

Broadway Standout Jess LeProtto on His Dance Idols, Dream Roles, and Pet Peeves

Photo by James Jin, courtesy Jin

Jess LeProtto's fiery energy and jaw-dropping jumps and turns have earned him a place in the Great White Way spotlight. LeProtto started singing and dancing at age 5, and performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in Nashville, TN, as a kid. He made his Broadway debut in The Boy From Oz in 2003, followed by stints in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Bye Bye Birdie. In 2011, he made it to the Top 8 on "So You Think You Can Dance." It was his role in the original cast of Newsies in 2012, though, that truly solidified his trusted-veteran status. Since then, he's performed in On the Town, CATS, and Hello, Dolly! Currently, LeProtto dances in the Broadway revival of Carousel, which opened earlier this year. Read on for The Dirt.


Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Ben & Jerry's lol

Who's your dance crush?

Georgina Pazcoguin: She's the cat's meow! I love her!

What's your go-to stress reliever?

Jazz music

What are you most nervous about?

Forgetting things

Who are your dance role models?

Gene Kelly: Watching him sing and dance in the rain.

Michael Jackson: Captured all the soul and groove in dance.

Baryshnikov: Combined dance and acting that I never saw before.

John Selya: Movin' Out changed my life!

Al Blackstone: The way he dances is movement for the soul.

What are the most-played songs on your playlist?

"New York State of Mind," Billy Joel

"Follow Your Road," Seawind

"Everyday Rapture," Sherie Rene Scott

"Peg," Steely Dan

What are your most-watched TV shows?

"Seinfeld," "The Muppet Show," "Stranger Things"

What are your favorite dance movies?

West Side Story, Singin' In the Rain, White Nights

What's something no one knows about you?

I know all of the lines to the movie Center Stage. ("Get out of my class!")

I also attend Pace University part-time, getting my BFA musical theater degree.

What can always make you laugh?

Dancing mascots, physical comedy, Martin Short

Do you have any nicknames?

Jessifer, Jessman, Jester

Who would play you in a movie?

J.T. Church from "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation"

Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?

Fell into the orchestra pit in Newsies during "Seize the Day," and climbed back up in time to hit the final pose of the number. I also ripped my bright green pants right down the middle in Bye Bye Birdie.

What's your advice for young dancers?

Research: There is so much to learn and read about. YouTube is a great tool for that. Always observe, take in and appreciate how other dancers interpret choreography. Be adaptive in the elements surrounding the movement (music, other actors onstage, setting).

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Italy, Paris, Australia

What's the last thing you do before you go to bed?

Have a cup of tea with a little after-show snack

What's your favorite book?

Lucky Man, by Michael J. Fox

What non-dance things would you consider yourself expert at?

Garage Band, paddle ball, awards-show trivia

What would you be if you weren't a dancer?

Teacher, orchestrator, arranger

Do you have any hidden talents?

I play piano, keyboard, and drums. Just started learning the bass, too!

If you could work with any choreographer, who would it be?

Twyla Tharp, Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd, or Fosse!

What are your pet peeves?

People walking down the street glued to their phones who don't know where they're going

What are your dream roles?

Cosmo, Singin' In the Rain

Eddie, Movin' Out

A-Rab or Action, West Side Story

Mike, A Chorus Line

Little Chap, Stop the World: I Want to Get Off

Anything originated by Joel Grey

What's your biggest fear?

Strange noises


A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Dirt with Jess LeProtto."

The Conversation
Cover Story

When Hannahlei Cabanilla rolled up to her Dance Spirit cover shoot—just 36 hours after being named the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 champion—she looked impossibly fresh-faced and well-rested. The Anaheim Hills, CA, native may have had "about eight blisters," as she joked, on her feet; she may barely have slept since the big win; and she may have just performed on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." But she jumped right on set, and quite literally didn't stop jumping for the next five hours. The fabulous technique, irresistible personality, and (especially) boundless energy that earned her the title of America's Favorite Dancer were all on full display.

So what was it actually like for Hannahlei to compete on the show she'd watched since she was a tiny dancer—and what's next for the now–19-year-old? Read on.

Keep reading... Show less

It's time to do your favorite happy dance because it's the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are almost here, which means we can finally start dancing to Christmas music! With Just For Kix, you can easily dress the part for this holiday season.

Black Friday is starting early! Spend $100 and you will get a $50 gift card. What are you waiting for? Head over to www.justforkix.com and get the shopping started!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos

Choreographing is hard enough on its own, but add a two-hour time limit and two dancers from completely different genres, and the task of creating a dance can seem almost impossible.However, street dancer K-Flow and ballerina Toi'ya prove such a task to be possible, even if it's challenging. In this mesmerizing video, the two find ways to adapt their style of dance to the other's, which results in a completely stunning duet.

Keep reading... Show less

This year, do not miss out on the world's most prestigious dance competition! Every dance competition offers a different experience. At Showstopper, they make it their top priority that your competition experience is unmatched. Here are just a few reasons why Showstopper is uniquely the best…

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos

It's one of those iconic only-in-NYC images: Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia making music with their feet in the middle of the legendary toy store FAO Schwarz. The uber-charming "giant piano" scene (choreographed by Pat Birch of Grease and the Martha Graham Dance Company) from the 1988 movie Big has since found its well-deserved place in many a supercut and pop-culture deep dive. But the Big piano has sadly been silent since FAO Schwarz suddenly closed its doors—seemingly for good—on July 15, 2015. Until today, that is!

Keep reading... Show less
Giveaways

It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Erin Baiano

Most-used emoji: ❤️

Favorite place to shop: Lululemon

Her dance style in five words: "Hard-hitting, lots of tricks"

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
via Giphy.com

If there's one thing we learned from the musical episode of "Riverdale" last season, it's that more television shows should follow along and have at least one dance-tastic episode. Sure, sometimes these can flop, but most of the time they only make us love the show even more. Here are 8 series that we think need an episode filled with dancey goodness RIGHT NOW.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.

Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story

When Hannahlei Cabanilla rolled up to her Dance Spirit cover shoot—just 36 hours after being named the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 champion—she looked impossibly fresh-faced and well-rested. The Anaheim Hills, CA, native may have had "about eight blisters," as she joked, on her feet; she may barely have slept since the big win; and she may have just performed on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." But she jumped right on set, and quite literally didn't stop jumping for the next five hours. The fabulous technique, irresistible personality, and (especially) boundless energy that earned her the title of America's Favorite Dancer were all on full display.

So what was it actually like for Hannahlei to compete on the show she'd watched since she was a tiny dancer—and what's next for the now–19-year-old? Read on.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

One Sergei Polunin is great but two, three, or four Polunins, that's something we can really get behind. And now we don't even have to go to an alternative universe to enjoy multiple Polunin clones. In Hozier's latest music video, "Movement" the legendary ballet dancer's drool-worthy technique is on full display as multiple versions of Polunin break out dancing. And though this isn't the first time the ballet superstar has teamed up with Hozier, this performance is even more haunting than the pair's 2013 collaboration in the "Take Me to Church" video.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

One Sergei Polunin is great but two, three, or four Polunins, that's something we can really get behind. And now we don't even have to go to an alternative universe to enjoy multiple Polunin clones. In Hozier's latest music video, "Movement" the legendary ballet dancer's drool-worthy technique is on full display as multiple versions of Polunin break out dancing. And though this isn't the first time the ballet superstar has teamed up with Hozier, this performance is even more haunting than the pair's 2013 collaboration in the "Take Me to Church" video.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Ellie Wagner (center) at Hall of Fame Dance Challenge's 2018 Nationals (photo by Hall of Fame, courtesy Wagner)

Each competition season comes with a range of emotions—emotions that tend to test even our strongest dance friendships. We spoke with comp-world veterans about how to deal with five common friendship-ruining competition scenarios, so you can keep the "forever" in "BFF."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
From left: (photo by Michael Curley, courtesy Cincinnati Ballet) (courtesy Cincinnati Zoo)

Yesterday Cincinnati Ballet announced an exciting addition to this year's Nutcracker cast: a character based on Fiona, the world's most famous hippopotamus.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

For Zara Silverman dancing isn't just a hobby, it's a way of life. And now, Zara's enthusiasm for dance is trickling into her other interests. The 15-year-old's love of fashion spurred the creation of her own clothing line, which is designed specifically with dancers in mind. "Since I'm aspiring to become a professional dancer I wanted to design clothes that I would wear," Zara told Dance Spirit. She even uses other dancers as models for the the line.

Her official company, Zara Silver Clothing, just launched last month, and Zara admits she's still figuring things out. But she's excited to be merging her expertise in the dance world with her love of design. Find out why she attributes the hours she's spent in the studio to her success as a business owner and designer.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Traditional stages are nice and all, but in the ever-unpredictable dance world, it's not uncommon for dancers to find themselves performing in pretty unusual places. Here's how six professionals make it work anywhere—from the mast of a ship to a giant beehive.

Keep reading... Show less
Giveaways

We're giving away Jordan Matter's latest book, Born To Dance. It features young dancers just like you, who are passionate about dance. Enter below for your chance to win a copy!

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways