Thursday, 24 July 2014

In conversation with Rasta Thomas, Ballet's Bad Boy (FROM 2011)

In conversation with Rasta Thomas, Ballet's Bad Boy
One of my big themes this year has been the way that ballet is often disparaged by companies who use its tradition and techniques: in your press release you talk about "ballet with attitude... without the constraints of classical dance traditions". What part of ballet have you held onto, and what are the constraints that you have abandoned?
We have held on to the beauty and strength of the technique and let go of everything that can be boring! We use pop and rock music, wear funky clothes and break down the walls of what you would get going to the ballet! We yell and expect you to do the same! We "ROCK" the Ballet!
In terms of casting, how far did you select ballet dancers and then add the other styles, or did you work with acrobats and hip-hop artists as well?
We select very versatile dancers. They are what we call "hybrids". They can do many styles of dance, as well as acrobatics and martial arts. We have found dancers online, at auditions, at competitions... Everywhere!
Something that ballet shares with musical theatre is the narrative: does Rock the Ballet have a story, or is it a more abstract piece about dance itself?
We use a loose story in our first act. It's a basic love story but showcases romance and laughter. Our second act is full of awesome dancing to awesome music. Simple.
How well does ballet mesh with forms like hip hop or tap? Are there shared values between the different forms?
Of course. They all require skill, coordination, talent and passion. They are very music driven and express many different emotions.
What sort of response were you hoping for with the show, and has this been the response that you have received?
The response to ROCK the Ballet has been incredible!!! We have fans all over the world and couldn't be happier. We want to keep people coming to the theatre so we will keep doing great shows!!!
If ballet is often perceived as old fashioned, why do you think it has retained its popularity?
Tradition is very alive in ballet. I love that and feel it should always be celebrated. We just wanted to do something different. We wanted to shake things up in the dance world and give people something to talk about.
Are there other companies that you feel any affinity with?
Not really because I feel we are the future. The past is great to learn from but I wanna keep moving forward and stay on a path that's only meant for us.

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