Described as “ballet for the 21st century” by creator, director and principal dancer Rasta Thomas, ‘Rock The Ballet’ is bringing ballet back.
The high-energy, US dance production has sold out shows worldwide since its 2007 inception, and now it’s Australia’s turn to be dazzled. “It’s a fusion of ballet but with contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, modern, breakdancing and many other artforms that make it much more exciting. It’s dance for the iPad/ Facebook generation,” says Thomas of the production that he choreographed alongside his wife.
While the show is a fresh take on a traditional artform, Thomas says the concept had been formulating for some time. As a seven-year-old classical dancer, Thomas felt restricted by the confines of conventional ballet music when wanting to create something dynamic. “I always wanted to fuse these ballet steps with more fun, popular music and by doing that, I think it lends itself to other vocabularies such as modern, contemporary, jazz and all those other styles.
“So it became an idea in me as an artist; I wanted to break loose from these chains of tradition. At the same time still pay homage and use that ballet vocabulary that was instilled in me but just use it differently. That’s what we do in ‘Rock the Ballet’,” explains Thomas.
Television shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Thomas says have reinvented the genre and then you have his production taking dance to new heights. “I think the whole artform has received a breath of life because of that show,” muses Thomas. “But with our show we’re trying to say ‘hey, what you see on television is also what you will see in the theatre’ in addition to ballet steps that you would see in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Swan Lake’.
“A lot of people go to the ballet but I don’t necessarily see them smiling or wanting to go out to party afterwards. It’s similar to going to the museum, where you appreciate it, you respect it but you don’t call up your friends and say ‘oh my gosh you guys have got to get down here right now and see this painting’.”
He pauses and says, “But that’s what we’re trying to bring to this — that fun, that excitement that you feel when you go see a movie or a concert, but also create that extra high dance has the possibility to do.”
With a stellar soundtrack featuring Coldplay, Michael Jackson and Queen, ‘Rock The Ballet’ appeals to a wide range of ages and musical tastes; something that Thomas says audiences across the globe can connect with. “Whatever society feels is current today and popular is what we want to embrace because we want to show that regardless of where we’re performing in Asia, Australia, Europe or America that it’s somewhat comfortable. These songs may not be a favourite but there is no denying that they are a part of popular culture.”
Thomas says the production team scouted YouTube, Facebook, and dance studios for a versatile dance troupe before settling on seven of the country’s finest. “I selected them because they are born performers ... dance consumes them, dance is a way of life for them. They have to move their body to express themselves and feel good about themselves and I think that’s infectious and you feel it when you watch the show.
“It’s a really small team that has that training and versatility to be able to handle the show and the workload, because we tour for about ten months out of the year.”
And the dance company couldn’t be happier to bring their dynamic show here.
“In Australia from the second we start our first number, we really feel the audience is right with us and it’s wonderful.”
‘Rock The Ballet’ opens at the Lyric Theatre QPAC Tuesday June 26.