Against All Odds: Lela Johnson’s Grit and Grace on the Global Dance Stage

Lela Johnson DP3

Once upon a time, in a small coastal town called Wamberal, a six-year-old girl stepped into a dance studio. Little did she know, her delicate footsteps would soon transform into leaps and bounds, capturing hearts across the globe. This is the tale of Lela Johnson, a modern-day Cinderella in the realm of dance. From Australia to the global stage, Lela has danced her way into the hearts of audiences and judges alike. Her story is one of tenacity, belief, and triumph against all odds.

Lela’s journey began when her childhood fascination with tap dancing evolved into a profound love for expressing emotions through movement. This evolved into different genres that have been masterfully perfected and seen Lela cast in many notable shows. Firstly, at the young age of 15, Lela was cast as a Protege Dancer in Jason Winters (So You Think You Can Dance, Cirque De Soleil, American Dance Awards) choreographic piece in the Dance Editorial Production, Love is Love. Jason immediately cast her in his Contemporary Company from hundreds of potential dancers. Lela became his prodigy, and he taught her everything he knew. Jason considered Lela as an asset to any Dance Company, with an incredible work ethic, her interpretation of movement was extraordinary, and she constantly strove for perfection. He recognized Lela as a Dancer well beyond her years and was thrilled to discover such a young talent.”

Lela was also cast as a Lead Dancer in the exceptional production Arterial with CIRCfest Australia. A production of a fusion of circus and indigenous culture that connects us to the community. Lela was an obvious stand-out for this role with her versatility and ability to make the role heard. Lela has a unique connection to storytelling and this piece was inspired by the idea of arteries in the body, as well as nature in rivers, streams, or roads, the work branches out past the audience and connects to a bigger life. Arterial showcased the best of Australian contemporary circus, theatre, and dance from hundreds of potential performers. Lela’s technical skill base in both dance and circus gives Lela the kind of presence on stage that makes her hard to look away from and impossible to forget. Her performances are pure potent energy and emotion that tends to leave the audience more breathless than the dancer transfixing them. Based in Brisbane Australia in partnership with the international circus center Tohu in Montreal, Lela toured Australia-wide with this production and was praised for her exceptional talent, dedication, and professionalism at such a young age.

While her roles have made her a household name in the performing arts industry, she has also amassed an impressive list of accolades to support her extraordinary talent. She is a two-time Australian National Champion Soloist; achieved at DanceLife Australian Dance Awards 2019 and Showcase Australian National Titles 2020. Both of these titles were won in consecutive years which had not been done before.

At the DanceLife Australian Dance Awards 2019, Lela performed against 25,000 dancers from all over the country, over 12 months. This national competition was adjudicated by renowned international judging panels and spanned all genres. Lela won Grand National Champion Soloist with her lyrical piece “In Case You Don’t Live Forever” choreographed by her mentor Natalie Baker. This recognition forged a path of opportunity for Lela with her being offered an on-the-spot full scholarship to train at The Broadway Dance Center in New York.

She then followed this up the next year by again taking out the national title at the Showcase Australian National Titles 2020. This time saw over 28,000 performers take the stage across Australia and New Zealand with all dancers being assessed by industry experts over 12 months across 48 regions and states. The finals saw the surviving top 50 battle it out before only one remained. Lela was crowned Dancer of the Year 2020.

Lela Johnson DP2

Lela then took on the world stage as Australia’s top Dancer. She attended the Asian World Titles, in Bangkok, Thailand. She stamped Australia’s authority in the world of dance after competing in 6 solos in different genres to be awarded the International Champion Soloist Title. This representation was both an individual accolade and a win for the Australian Dance Industry. To produce such a formidable talent was such a success. Lela was a credit to her training, fortitude, and pure skill in her craft of dance.

With a Covid delay, Lela then went on in 2022 to the World Dance Movement Titles in Italy. There she took home her second international title, Senior World Champion Soloist in Contemporary Dance, against dancers from the USA, Europe, and South Africa. Lela won this title in the genre of contemporary dance with her piece aptly titled “An Evening I Will Not Forget”. There is a reason why Lela is so extraordinary. What sets Lela apart is her relentless work ethic and her intuitive understanding of storytelling through dance. Her performances are enchanting, characterized by impeccable technique and a deeply ingrained connection to the emotions and narratives she portrays. Additionally, Lela’s ability to forge her path is truly inspirational. She has shown that with hard work, unwavering passion, and self-belief, dreams can be achieved in one’s unique way.

It is to be noted that this young lady from a small town on the coast of Australia is a two-time national champion and a two-time international champion. An astonishing achievement that is only the beginning of this formidable talent.

Lela’s exceptional talent displayed in Italy also opened doors to even further opportunities as renowned Italian choreographer Diego Orengo scouted and cast Lela as his Two70 Lead Dancer in his production “The Silk Road”. This production is now on tour with Royal Caribbean International impressing audiences all over Asia where Lela has been performing for the last 10 months.

For those seeking to follow in her footsteps, Lela imparts a piece of invaluable advice: “Work ethic, determination, and drive are the pathways to success. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities. Know your worth. Forge your own path; do things your way”.

As Lela dances into the future, her aspirations include continued performances on the world stage, creating her own dance company, and bringing the joy of artistic movement to countless more. Her persistence, combined with grace and unparalleled skill, continues to dazzle and inspire a new generation of dancers. From the shores of Wamberal to the limelight of international acclaim, Lela Johnson is not just dancing; she is composing poetry in motion.

Follow Lela on Instagram to learn about all of her latest ventures: @lela.johnsonn.

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