Doug Ramsay photo, dougramsayphoto.photoshelter.com
Eleanor Leight, 90, gives direction to the Leight Fantastics dancers during a rehearsal Friday, March 30 at the Snohomish Senior Center for the upcoming Mother’s Day variety show.
Snohomish tradition comes to end after 34 years
SNOHOMISH - The 2012 Mother’s Day variety show will be the Leight Fantastics last show, bringing an end to a 34-year Snohomish tradition.
Last week, the tireless 90-year-old woman behind the show, Eleanor Leight, said she looks forward to working on other projects with her dance troupe.
The variety show has gotten too expensive, show director Leight said last week.
The work it takes to put the show on, including year-round meetings and practices, would be overwhelming for someone half her age. But Leight shrugs it off to good exercise.
And dancing is definitely good exercise.
“We’ll still do the fair and different things like that. We just won’t do this one that’s so difficult to put together with scenery and the tickets and the programs and the advertising in the programs and everything you can think of,” Leight said.
A lot of the people who started the troupe with Leight are still performing, even after three decades, she said.
“Everybody’s older; they can’t do everything they used to,” she said.
Dancing is hard exercise, which could be why Leight feels a lot younger than 90.
This year’s show will include favorite numbers the Leight Fantastics have performed throughout the years, in addition to some new ones.
Leight said the show will repeat numbers that were the group’s favorites or ones they thought were audience favorites.
“It’s our memories, some of the things we thought were fun way long ago or some things that have been fun recently,” she said.
Quite a few who’ve dropped out have come back for this final show, she said.
“That’s made it fun for us, seeing people again that we know,” she said.
This year’s show is May 10-13 at the Snohomish High School Performing Arts Center, 1316 Fifth St. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/232535.
The dancers meet once a week through August, and then in September, they meet twice a week to gear up for the May shows.
Leight, who has been dancing since she was 16, and her sister were influenced by relatives on her father’s side of the family who worked backstage in the theater as electricians and managers.
“They weren’t performers, but we thought ‘That’s what we want to do, we want to dance.’ So I’ve really earned my living with dance,” Leight said.
She started in the ballet, but she was too tall.
The blessing in disguise led her to a role with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes at age 20. Just as World War II ended, she got to travel with the Rockettes to Europe as part of a USO show.
After that, she worked a solo act until she got married, “but all the time I’ve been doing some teaching, mostly on a small scale,” she said.
Leight moved to Snohomish in 1968 from Long Island.
The Leight Fantastics came about after Everett Olson wanted to do a show in Snohomish for the country’s bicentennial. After that show, a few ladies wanted tap-dancing lessons and that first class became the genesis of the Leight Fantastics, according to the groupe’s history.
Leight put a show together, “and we never dreamed that we’d still be doing it 34 years later,” she said last week.
Leight said the dancing troupe is “quite a mixture of ages,” and features some amazing dancers.
“Many of our singers and some of our dancers are quite as good as any professional person, but they just didn’t want that kind of a life,” despite their “wonderful talent,” she said.
Over the years, the troupe has given well over $100,000 to the skateboard park, the senior center, the historical society, the boys and girls club, the school district and other groups, and “we’ve been pleased to do that,” Leight said.
“It’s kind of getting to the time where we feel it’s time to do something else.
“We’ll still do some shows; we won’t be doing this one, what we call the really big one, but we’ll still do the little shows,” she said.
The troupe is scheduled to perform at the Snohomish Chalet in August and at the Evergreen State Fair right before Labor Day.
At the Evergreen State Fair, “we have a good time” incorporating kids and animals into the show, Leight said.
She said a multigenerational dancing troupe is best.
“I think people like to see all ages. Anytime you get a mixture of ages it’s far more fun if it’s a party or entertainment instead of all one age,” Leight said.
Leight’s five boys all danced at one time and now they help with things like the scenery, Leight said.
“They said they paid their dues,” she said, yet she has one son in Australia who is trying to get back to Snohomish in time to join the show.
It takes close to 100 people to put the show on, she said.
The band members are as good as professional musicians, she said, “really talented.”
“Mother’s Day ... I don’t know how we happened to choose that weekend, but I think it was when the buildings were available,” and it has become a holiday tradition, she said.
A popular one, at that.
The building holds 500 people.
“People who go south for the winter make sure they’re back in time for this show,” Leight said.
It was the Snohomish Historical Society that sponsored the troupe from the very beginning, “so we always made sure that we had a donation for them.”
She said she will miss the people the most.
Leight praised her stage manager, scenery makers, costumers and musicians, as well.
“They’re all just wonderful people,” she said.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published April 4, 2012