Leah Howard talks to Sally Clark about a dance career spanning over 20 years and still going strong.
Sustaining enough work in the performing arts to call it a career is a major achievement. So to have managed this for long enough to find yourself celebrating your 40th birthday, whilst performing in Disney’s smash hit, Aladdin, certainly justifies a celebration.
Leah Howard is that quintessential commercial dancer whose boundless talent and performance energy has allowed her to work as a triple-threat performer, freelance dancer, resident director and choreographer between musicals, corporate events, television projects and music acts (and very often juggling this work across genres, concurrently) over a professional career spanning more than 20 years.
Her theatre performance credits include Aretha Thomas in Legends!, starring Hayley Mills and Juliet Mills, Mrs Corry in Disney’s Mary Poppins, and roles in Avenue Q, Hair, Fame the Musical, Dein Perry’s Steel City (Australia and Radio City Music Hall NYC) as well as the UK tour of Tap Dogs Rebooted and Tap Dogs USA. She was the resident director for the Australian tour of The Rocky Horror Show and toured to Korea as the resident director for the UK Production of Avenue Q. Commercially she has worked with artists including Macy Gray, Olivia Newton-John, Cyndi Lauper, Sam Sparro, Kylie Minogue, Vanessa Amorosi, Deborah Cox, Sheena Easton, Jamelia, Meatloaf, and Mika and on music videos for the Vines, Rogue Traders, Faker, Young Divas, Paulini and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. Howard has also choreographed for highly successful children’s show Hi-5 and is regularly sought after for television commercial campaigns.
Currently performing in Aladdin she shares what she loves most about this show. “The choreography is so 'Broadway'. I didn’t think that I would ever, in my lifetime, get to do actual Broadway choreography and this is! It’s hard as hell, at this time, at my age – I’m 40! I turned 40, this year everybody.” She gives her trademark smile, and continues, “But being in Aladdin is allowing me to have that time. And it is awesome. You are in glitz and glamour. You are in tap shoes. You’re hoofing! You feel like a Rockette. It’s outstanding! And it’s a big sing. You really are challenged to be the triple threat, in this show, and it’s a stretch and every night is different but every night is hard work. And I love it!”
In the midst of that description is the key to what she loves best as a dancer – being in tap shoes. She remembers, “All my life I always wanted to be a ‘Tap Dog’ and when I came straight out of full-time… I wouldn’t strictly classify it as a ‘Tap Dog’… but Dein Perry created Steel City and he did this amazing and massive show that involved fork lifts, trucks, tyres and abseiling. That was my first-ever show and it was amazing! I could not have done anything more professional with a big cast. We did it for a year around the country and then we went to Radio City Music Hall and did a show there. I mean – that’s it! I could have actually finished my career after that. What else do you want? It was the best! I would actually have my knees reconstructed – if I had to – to do it again… in a heartbeat!”. . .
This is an extract from an article by Sally Clark in the February/March issue of Dance Australia. Don't miss out. Look out for the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app.
Pictured: Leah Howard in Aladdin. Photo: DEAN VAN MEER.