Occupying a space approximately halfway between Swan Lake and Manpower, Rock The Ballet — the brainchild of San Francisco choreographer Rasta Thomas, and performed by Thomas alongside his frequently-topless ‘Bad Boys Of Dance’ troupe — is a treat for lovers of contemporary dance, anthemic pop songs, and muscular male flesh (or any combination thereof).
As Thomas explained to Sydney Star Observer down the line from his hometown ahead of the production’s Australian tour, “It’s great music, great dancing and great fun. We’re not trying to be avant garde”.
As the title of the show suggests, Thomas and his dancers fuse contemporary ballet movement with a hit-heavy soundtrack by the likes of U2, Michael Jackson, Prince, Queen and Coldplay. He created the show — and the Bad Boys company itself — after experiencing frustration at the limitations he saw at other dance companies.
“Most dance companies haven’t allowed me to combine music and movement in this way. Rock the Ballet allows me to explore different styles of dance in a way that other dance companies just haven’t allowed me to,” the accomplished 29-year-old said.
Of course, there’s a real sex appeal inherent in contemporary dance — amazing bodies on stage, contorting themselves into unusual positions — and Thomas is happy to accenuate that.
“I think it would be foolish to deny it. The majority of our audiences are women … and certainly some gentlemen enjoy the show a lot as well,” he chuckled, “so we realise sex appeal is part of it.
“We kind of play with it too — we do one dance to [Right Said Fred’s] I’m Too Sexy. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Ballet set to early ’90s Eurocheese? Thomas seems to be playing with fire here. Surely Rock The Ballet must piss off some dance traditionalists.
“Of course. But these people are holding on to art forms that are hundreds of years old, and a younger generation really isn’t interested in the old ballets — they want something more relatable and current,” he argued.
“If I’m going to start dancing to Tchaikovsky or some other classical piece, I just feel like there’s this ‘museum’ quality to it. You appreciate it, but it’s not really relatable. I think ballet suffers from that.
“That’s where I think something like Rock The Ballet is a good introduction to dance — we’re targeting potential future ballet-lovers here.”
So Rock The Ballet is like a gateway drug? Before the kids know it, they’ll be hooked on The Nutcracker?
“Above all, it’s about dance. There’s fancy lights, impressive video projections, but at its centre, it’s dance in its truest form.”
info: Rock The Ballet plays at the State Theatre from June 15-20. Visit www.rocktheballet.com.au