Le Roy native and professional dancer Jason Stotz competed this summer on the television show “America’s Got Talent.”
The dance group to which he belongs, Catapult Entertainment: Living Shadows, was one of a dozen acts that made it to the finals. Catapult was eliminated Sept. 11 when voters reduced the number of finalists to six.
Stotz, 27, lives in the East Village in Manhattan.
The Le Roy High School alumnus earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University at Buffalo, where Stotz studied ballet, jazz, modern, tap and social dance.
In the past he competed in Drum Corps International and Winterguard. He is also a personal trainer and pilates instructor.
(The following interview was condutcted via email by staff writer Paul Mrozek, with additional information from Stotz’s blog postings on Catapult’s website.)
Catapult, explain what it is to people unfamiliar with it?
Catapult is a shadow dance company. We use a projector to throw light onto a large screen. We then dance our way into various shapes like a helicopter, a church, or a sea horse.
We tell stories using only light, shadow and our bodies.
How is the shadow dancing done and how much work is it?
It’s all about your depth in the space. The closer you are to the screen, the smaller your shadow; the closer you are to the projector, the larger your shadow. We have to work together to tune our depths in order to make a shape that is believable.
Where do the performance ideas come from?
They all just come from life and experience. We want to tell exciting and uplifting stories. And we want the audience to wonder how on Earth we are doing what we’re doing behind the screen. We love the sense of magic that this art form has.
How you got on AGT?
Adam Battelstein started Catapult about five years ago. The company had gotten a few corporate gigs, but wasn’t really doing as well in the past year. Then someone from AGT found a video of Catapult and contacted Adam to try to get us to audition.
We weren’t really sure how it would go over. To get a standing ovation from the whole audience and the judges was absolutely surreal.
What was it like to be on the show?
The talent level of the acts is just amazing. Everyone is so friendly and supportive and so grateful to be there. I just feel so blessed to be a part of it.
What was it like to advance to the finals?
After the reactions of the crowd and the judges, we felt pretty good that we were moving forward. Semifinals was pretty scary. We had a technical glitch with an aerial rigging and we almost didn’t get the act up.
This put us about 15 seconds behind in the music so the whole rest of the piece was rushed. It was not our best work. Luckily the judges thought we had more to offer and put us in to the top 12.
What was the whole experience like for you?
It was just incredible. So surreal. So much talent. So many kind, generous, loving people. I was such an incredible opportunity. We made so many friends and connections. S many opportunities for future collaboration. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience, and I feel strongly that I will be reaping the benefits of it for quite a while.
What impact has Robin Cotler at Images in Dance in Batavia had on your career?
Robin was one of my first dance teachers. I started taking classes at Images in Dance my senior year of high school. I had already been accepted to the University at Buffalo for physical therapy, so she suggested I audition for their dance program and double major. I didn’t think I had much of a shot as I had only been dancing for a year, but I auditioned anyway and made it.
She has always been a great mentor.
What other jobs have you held?
I’ve played steel drums for several reggae and steel bands, I’ve choreographed, I’ve modeled, and in my younger years I did everything from delivering Domino’s pizza to folding jeans at the Gap.
What’s the strangest performing job you ever had?
I was a student at the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC. One day the director called a fellow student and myself into the office saying he had a gig for us. We were to dress in a leotard and black slacks to go to this Long Island “Hat Party.”
It was rather ambiguous as to what it was and what we would be doing. As it turned out, we were there to be the man-candy for these wealthy Long Island women as they displayed their elaborate homemade hats for each other and voted which was the most creative, beautiful, outlandish, etc.
All we had to do was stand there and look pretty and dole out the hors-d’oeuvres. As the party went on they began serving us cocktails. This quickly inspired us to start a full scale dance party.
It was pretty strange and a little degrading at first, but it turned out to be quite a fun little gig. I made $300 to hang out and eventually start a dance party. I’m never mad at a dance party. I even ended up booking some gigs playing steel drums with the reggae band that was at the party!
FAMILY: Mother, Valorie; father, Brian; sister, Jennifer, 14.
MOST AMAZING MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE: Performing for 25,000-plus at Drum Corps International finals, opening for Santana with the Pangaia steel band along with my father (a percussionist with Rochester Philharmonic). I think the most surreal was seeing Catapult perform on “America’s Got Talent.”
FAVORITE PASTIME: I love studying new things.
FAVORITE FOOD: I enjoy cooking a lot. One of my favorite recipes is Giada De Laurentiis' Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto.
WHAT I SHOULD GIVE UP: Judgement of myself, my friends, strangers, etc.
FAVORITE COLOR: Blue
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
FAVORITE BOOK: Life After Death by Deepak Chopra
DINNER COMPANION OF CHOICE: Anyone who enjoys life
GENESEE COUNTY'S BEST-KEPT SECRET: It’s beautiful, it's artistic, it is a quiet peaceful place that I am proud to call my home.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH GENESEE COUNTY: Like any small community, people get stuck in their own little world and can feel trapped.