Dance In Review
Rasta Thomas was born in America and was raised for a time in Saudi Arabia. At the age of seven he had his first encounter with ballet. It was an encounter that would drastically change the direction of his life, and it only happened by chance.
His father told him that if he didnâ€™t improve his behaviour in martial arts class, heâ€™d put him in a tutu quick smart. â€œNeedless to say, I was in ballet class the next day,â€ laughs Rasta. Who knew that this parental punishment would turn into an internationally renowned career?
Something about ballet must have deeply appealed to Rasta right from the beginning because by the age of nine he was training at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC. â€œI was the only American. It was intense,â€ he says of his time there.
Then at the age of 13 he became the youngest person ever to receive the Jury Prize at the Paris International Dance Competition. Since then, he has gone on to win many more competitions and has danced all over the world. He was the principal dancer with the Hartford Ballet Company, and has been a guest artist with companies such as the Kirov Ballet, the Imperial Russian Ballet, the Beijing Central Ballet and the Universal Ballet of Korea (just to name a few as to include Rastaâ€™s entire CV would be impossible). In 2007, he founded his own company Bad Boys of Dance and in 2008 they launched their show â€˜Rock The Balletâ€™.
While Rasta enjoys classical ballet (his favourites are Lar Lubovitch's â€˜Othelloâ€™ and â€˜Don Quixoteâ€™, and heâ€™s danced the lead in both), â€˜Rock The Balletâ€™ was inspired by his desire for more.
â€œMore fun, more excitement, more dance styles. I wanted to create something that made people happy, made them feel inspired and sparked a passion for music and dance they didnâ€™t know they had,â€ he says.
The show is often described as pop ballet, which Rasta explains as â€œa seamless blend of solid classical ballet technique, jazz, contemporary, hip hop and music theatre. It makes people wanna jump up on stage and dance with us! It showcases the versatile dance of today while pushing dance to the next level.â€
And it has been a phenomenal success. This year alone the Bad Boys have already toured around Germany, America and Austria, and when they are done rocking Australia theyâ€™re headed to France, Spain and Italy.
The first act of the show is a simple love story set to pop rock music (think U2, Prince, Queen, Michael Jackson) and the second act is even simpler. In Rastaâ€™s words itâ€™s â€œawesome dancing to awesome music. Both acts are packed with high energy dancing, incorporating a myriad of styles.â€
This is all to the backdrop of William Cusickâ€™s arresting video projected scenery. The seven dancers (six Bad Boys and one pretty girl) that Rasta has assembled are strong and versatile. They can do everything from classical ballet through to tap, jazz, hip hop and gymnastics. It has even been said that they can defy gravity.
â€œI canâ€™t promise this to be true, so youâ€™ll just have to come and see the show to find out.â€
When I ask him what motivates him to dance, Rasta has his answer ready.
â€œMy love of entertaining. I simply love to make an audience cheer. Nothing is better than giving back to those who are there to support you and your efforts.â€
And support he must need. Not only is Rasta touring the world dancing and directing his own company, but he also has a two year-old daughter. Luckily his wife, Adrienne Caterna-Thomas, is also a dancer with the company as well as the resident choreographer, so she shares his dreams and motivations. When Rasta isnâ€™t busy running the company or dancing, they â€œhang out, play tennis or just relax on the couch playing video gamesâ€.
With the success of shows like Matthew Bourneâ€™s â€˜Swan Lakeâ€™, this contemporary, powerful style of dance may indeed be where the future of ballet is heading. It showcases positive masculine energy and takes dance to new exciting places. If you find classical ballet stuffy and dull, or if youâ€™ve never given it a chance, this may be just the thing to get you hooked.
â€˜Rock The Balletâ€™ played at QPACâ€™s Concert Hall from June 22-24.