How to get my job: ballet dancer
We're still knee deep in holiday flavor over here, so this week we decided to catch up with a ballet dancer to help us better understand how one would go about dancing around on a stage as a profession. We talked to Kevin Gaël Thomas, who is originally from France but is currently a dancer for the Colorado Ballet. His first season on the stage in Colorado saw him taking on a role in The Nutcracker before he moved on to dance in productions like Swan Lake, Don Quixote and many more.
Westword: Tell us a little about your history as a dancer.
Kevin Thomas: I started ballet when I was eight years old, because I couldn't sing properly. My mom put me in a special art school in second grade where boys were taking singing classes in the afternoon (choir style) and girls were taking ballet classes. I truly sucked at placing my voice on the right tune, so the choir teacher called for a meeting with my parents and told them that even though I didn't have any talent for singing, I could try to do ballet instead if I wanted to stay in this school. So there I was, eight years at the ballet school surrounded by 100 little girls looking at me like I was special.
I was a little nervous at first, but some older guys helped me understand that once I was on stage for the summer showcase I would feel happy I made the decision. A week later I start enjoying it very much, so much that a couple months down the road I was doing ballet competitions where I was winning gold medals. It became a passion, and when I was 16, I was offered a full scholarship to a summer program in Toronto at Canada's National Ballet School. It went so well they offered to let me stay for the next two years and to graduate from their high school. I did my junior and senior years there, and then I graduated with a job offer in the Houston Ballet.
I stayed for one season in Texas and then was offered a better position by Gil Boggs, the Artistic Director of the Colorado Ballet. I have been dancing for the Colorado Ballet since 2007, and I love it. It's a great company that fulfills me. During our lay off time in the summer I go to the International Ballet Competition, where I represent my country, France. The first one I went to was in New York City, and the second one was in Jackson, Mississippi.
WW: Why did you want to be start working as a dancer and when did you know it was what you wanted to do?
KT: After a few months in the studio I was performing on stage, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do. It became my dream that one day I will be a "principal ballet dancer" in an international ballet company. I'm not quite at that level yet in the company, but one day I will get there. I started my professional career at 18 with the Houston Ballet. I am now 22.
WW: How would you recommend someone get themselves started in the field?
KT: I would recommend any toddler or teenager to get to the closest ballet studio in town, because it is such an awesome activity. You are always the center of attention, and you're surrounded by beautiful girls the whole time. When there's a performance, you always get a big solo with the most beautiful costume. One great reason is to feel special and unique, because at school you will always be one kid amongst many others; at the studio you are "The Boy" of the ballet school, the special one, the most popular, the most cherished. Ballet also teaches you a great deal of discipline. You always have to be on top of your game, just like in any mainstream sport.
WW: Can you describe an average day?
An average day starts at 10:15 a.m. with a class or warm-up that usually lasts an hour and a half. After that, three hours of rehearsals for the upcoming performances. Lunchtime and then another three hours of rehearsal. On performance day, we start at noon and rehearse until 3 p.m. if needed. Then we'll have a break until a non-mandatory warm-up before the show. Seven is the half-hour call where we put our costumes and make-up on, then 7:30 p.m. is show time!
WW: What's the best part of your job?
KT: The best part about my job is to perform on stage. The best moment is when you are bowing and 2000 people are cheering for you. You feel like a rock star!
WW: How about the worst?
KT:The worst part is when you get injured and you have to watch other people perform and have fun while you warm the bench.
WW: How about the biggest misconceptions?
KT: Many people may think that men in ballet are gay because we wear tights, but I'd argue that those football players in the NFL also wear tights, but no one ever says they look gay. Actually, to be honest with you, being in this profession is a chick magnet when you are straight, because you are constantly surrounded by women who see you work out and dance. Ballet is also for straight guys who are passionate about their art.
WW: Is there a particular work you're most proud of?
KT: My proudest moment in my career was to represent my country at the 2010 USA International Ballet Competition, walking down the aisle carrying the flag of my country in front of thousands of people. When the speaker announced my name and my country while people were cheering I felt really proud. I had a huge rush of emotion, a shiver down my spine and tears in my eyes. It was a defining moment in my career.
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