Along with thousands of other 13-year-old girls who dreamed of tap shoes and dressing rooms, Rochelle Patterson put “performing arts” for her future ambitions in her eighth grade yearbook.
While most of those girls probably didn’t make it to Broadway, Patterson’s dream is finally being realized, as she goes from the College to the chorus line. The admissions counselor and head of the College Ambassadors program is leaving this week to perform in the show “Stomp” in Las Vegas.
Patterson has been a dancer since childhood, dabbling in tap, jazz and ballet and teaching hip-hop for nine years.
She was on the Diamond Gems dance team at Temple University and has appeared in a variety of musical theater shows.
“I’ve always had a love of performing,” she said, but “it was always a part-time gig,” something she did on the weekends or when she had spare time to audition.
One of these weekend auditions was for “Stomp,” a blend of music, dance and performance art. According to its Web site, stomponline.com, “‘Stomp’ is a movement, of bodies, objects, sounds – even abstract ideas.”
“But what makes it so appealing is that the cast uses everyday objects, but in non-traditional ways.” For example, the performers use garbage cans and pipes for percussion and dance while sweeping brooms.
Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas in England, “Stomp” has its origins in the historical tradition of busking – performing in public places to entertain a crowd. They updated this notion and gave it an urban feel, to critical and commercial acclaim.
Patterson auditioned for the show once before in 1999. Her best friend was cast, so she attended a performance and was immediately drawn in to the energy of the show. “‘Stomp’ has a flavor to it that no other show has,” Patterson said. “‘Stomp’ is an opportunity to reach out to your audience and pull them in.”
The diversity of the show also appealed to Patterson. “All the girls on Broadway are the same size and weight,” she said. “Stomp” is looking for ordinary people with different looks.
Her friend encouraged her to audition in 1999 and she made it to the final call before being cut. Undeterred, she recently tried out for the show’s Las Vegas run.
Once again, she made the first, second and final call. “All I could think was, ‘I hope I get the call.’ Then they called me from Vegas and I couldn’t say no,” Patterson said.
Moving from the suburbs of New Jersey to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas doesn’t faze Patterson, who has visited the city before and counts it as one of her favorite places.
With the challenge of finding an apartment behind her, Patterson said she just wants to get out there and get started.
Patterson is excited but reluctant to leave the College, where she has happily worked for five-and-a-half years. Nevertheless, “I’m really excited to be doing something I’ve always dreamed of,” she said.
Her contract is from 2007 to 2008, but don’t necessarily plan on seeing her back next year. Patterson would like to try out for other shows, including “Stomp NY,” although she said New Jersey will always be home.
Directing the Ambassador program helped prepare her for this new phase in life, demanding the same enthusiasm and creativity that “Stomp” will. “You need a lot of energy for this job,” she said.
She hopes that students at the College will follow her lead and find their own personal passion, something that took her years to discover. “It sounds clich?d, but never give up on your dreams,” she said.
Too often, Patterson said, college students are afraid to try something different and get out of their comfort zones. “Hone your skills and don’t stay locked in something,” she said.