I first met Roger Lee when he was attending the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, studying dance and studio art.Â In CAPA’s dance studio, during an after school rehearsal, Â Roger taught a combination of thirty movements for half as much music.Â â€œLet’s try it,â€ he said walking towards the stereo as his dancers exchanged doubtful glances. Â As the music started, I watched the dancers stop, one by one, to watch their ambitious choreographer and by the time the section of music reached its end, he was the only one dancing. â€œMaybe we should try it again,â€ they laughed and waited for the right moment to begin. Â For this twenty-three year old, Philadelphia native, that right moment is now. Â In two months,Â Roger, whose first production, at age five, Â featured the limited talents of Barbie and Ken, Â will premiere his professional dance company, Â Roger Lee Dance. Â This time, however, his company is composed of humans with bendable limbs.
Roger has been dreaming about his own dance company for as long as he can remember.Â â€œI dream in choreography,â€ he says. Â He graduated from Ursinus College with degrees in Dance and Communications and received his Masters Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University. Â When I asked why he preferred to stay local rather than relocate to a popular arts mecca like New York, he told stories about growing up in Philadelphia, the performances he’s seen and done, and the classes he’s attended.Â â€œI’ve watched the arts in Philadelphia blossom and grow and I’m surrounded by dancers with the same vision.â€Â He commented on the high cost of living in New York, â€œI’d rather use that money to produce a show or give it to my dancers instead of giving it to a landlord.â€ Additionally, because he’s kept his dance career in the city, he’s been able to make a lot of connections and has already lined up venues, funding, rehearsal space, supporters, and, most importantly, dancers.
In the studio, Roger teaches movements like he’s talking to percussionists but the dancers, all of whom are students in Philadelphia or natives themselves, don’t seem phased .Â â€œI can hear the music when he teaches it like that,â€ one dancer exclaimed, watching him work on a duet. Â He’s naming his first show after the company, Roger Lee Dance. Â His goal for both is to use dance to lift theÂ spirits of audiences and artist, specifically, the current generation of young dancers.Â â€œWe can do all the amazing things that the dancer pioneers and great dancers did.â€
Roger went on to talk about his vision for the company and his goals for himself. Â He believes that his path is clearer now than it’s ever been.Â Maybe because one of the dancers made a joke about it, or maybe because I was curious, I asked Roger what he hoped to be doing in seven years.Â He answered without hesitation, â€œCelebrating our eighth anniversary.â€
Roger Lee Dance’s self titled concert will premiere at the Performance Garage in Philadelphia onÂ April 20, 2012 – April 21.Â For more information and ticket purchases visit: http://www.rogerleepr.com.