When iLuminate’s Artist of Light show plays The Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, local talent gone big-time will take the stage. Lisa Bauford, a graduate of Dixie Hollins High School, is a principal dancer in iLuminate. In a recent interview, Bauford discussed her love of dance and her life since joining iLuminate.
“The name, iLuminate, means ‘I light up,’ indicating our light suits... all you see onstage are the moving lights, and we are invisible,” Bauford explained. “The only time the audience sees who we are is when the lights come on.”
And Bauford loves her ‘”invisible” performance:
“Since no one can see me, no one can judge me,” she explained. “No one can see the color of my skin, they can’t see my locks or know if I’m male or female. All they see is our moving light suits.”
iLuminate is the creation of Niral Kotb, originator and CEO of the troupe. The dancers perform on a darkened stage wearing colorful light suits that accentuate their moves, creating a moving light show. Kotb was a dancer but when an injury ended her career she enrolled at Columbia University and combined her two interests — dance and technology — to found iLuminate.
When a cast member cannot make the performance, any member can fill in. Bauford has filled in for male cast members because it’s a gender-neutral role. She’s danced with the iLuminate troupe since 2012, when she took a chance and went to Atlanta to audition for Kotb.
“I was working at Campbell Park Recreation Center in St. Pete, but I also went to local ‘dance battles,'” said Bauford, “I learned about the audition and decided to take a chance, so Simon and I made the eight-hour drive to Atlanta.”
Bauford is referring to Simon Mendoza, a local Tampa dancer she’d partnered with before as she tackled the hip-hop and underground dance scene. She participated in many battles at Ybor's The Ritz, and other Tampa Bay dance clubs, honing both her skills and her reputation in Florida’s underground dance world.
“The dance scene in Florida is pretty small, so we all know each other,” she said. “My manager told us we should try out, and we made it. It was a two-day audition and it was difficult, but exciting.”
Other local people traveling with the iLuminate show include dancer Mendoza, tour manager and stage manager Jorge Lucero, and manager Natasha Martinez.
After her Atlanta audition Bauford’s dance career took off. She joined the cast of iLuminate, performing with them at Six Flags Over Georgia. When she started dancing with iLuminate, they’d just done America’s Got Talent, so the group was hot, and lots of work became available.
Her journey took her to New York, where she performed with iLuminate at an off-Broadway theater for two years, and also did some choreography.
But Lisa Bauford hasn’t always been dancing through life.
“At Dixie Hollins, I played basketball, I didn’t study dance,” she said.“People in my family danced, so finally I got interested in freestyle and started dancing.”
“My first job when I was 16 at Campbell Park was coaching basketball. After I left Dixie, I went to St. Petersburg College but I kept working at Campbell Park…I was there for 12 years, until I took a chance and went to the audition in Atlanta.”
After joining the troupe, Bauford moved to New York where she continued performing with iLuminate’s Artist of Light show. In addition to her work with iLuminate since 2012, she’s also become a choreographer and master teacher.
She also belongs to iLuminate’s World Tour Corporate cast and has traveled to Samoa, Malaysia and Hong Kong, where she’s learned about various cultures and their exotic dances.
“I love learning all the traditional dances,” she said. “One of my favorites is from New Zealand called the 'haka,' which tells the tribe’s story. I want to teach these dances.”
And Bauford has future plans to create shows, maybe go to Broadway, or open her own studio. She offers this advice to beginning artists: “Never limit yourself, learn all styles… you never know how far you can go if you take a leap of faith, like I did in Atlanta.”
In the meantime, she’ll keep dancing.
iLuminate's Artist of Light | Duke Energy Center’s Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st St. S., St. Petersburg | Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. | $26.50-$49.50 727-300-2000 | themahaffey.com
Don't miss any of Tampa Bay's enlightening events — subscribe to Creative Loafing's weekly Do This newsletter!