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Beyond The Barre is an intimate, insightful and sometimes funny conversation with Colorado Ballet’s spectacular dancers.
Today’s conversation is with Kevin Gaël Thomas, newly promoted soloist who has graced the stage in performances of The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and La Sylphide to name a few.
On the first day back from break, Kevin sat down with me in Studio 8. Upon meeting Kevin I could tell that he is very humble, genuinely kind and full of wisdom. He speaks with so much passion about the people he loves, dancing of course and travel. We quickly bond over our mutual love for travel, sharing stories, reminiscing on incredible adventures and celebrating the beauty of immersing yourself into a new culture.
KH: You’ve been in Colorado since 2007, but you’re originally from France, what do you miss most about France?
KGT: The food and quality of restaurants. I really miss taking the time to eat, you’re not going to eat in 30 minutes and just go but you’re really going to sit down and have a conversation.
KH: How did you know you wanted to dance ballet?
KGT: My mom is a huge fan of Grease the musical and she used to play it and I remember seeing Olivia John Newton and John Travolta just dancing and there was that beat and I would get up and start dancing. I would start improvising and dance my heart out.
Across from where I lived was an art school where the young gentlemen were singing and the young ladies were dancing. I got into that program and was singing for an entire year until they came to my parents and said, “You know, Kevin is very enthusiastic, and he’s a sweet little guy but I’m not sure singing is quite his talent. We should try to put him into the ballet program.” So because I couldn’t sing I ended up studying dance.
KH: What do you eat for breakfast?
KGT: Coffee, croissant and a banana. Café and croissant is very French, it’s a cultural thing I grew up with.
KH: If I gave you $100,000 what would you do with it?
KGT: I would spend a month in Brazil with all my peeps. We’d rent a villa or castle and party on. I’d have the time of my life with all the people I love.
KH: That sounds like a blast!
KGT: Yea, I love to share. I just lost my grandmother during Swan Lake and it made me realize how we get upset over tiny details but in the end what matters is being alive and healthy. I guess when she died the message I got was to keep sharing, keep loving. The more you love the more alive you feel. More than having the best job or $100,000, spreading love, that’s the true goal.
KH: How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
KGT: Sincere, passionate, and determined.
KH: If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring?
KGT: I would bring an MP3 that can last forever so that I could have music with me all the time. I'd have great dancers I could choreograph on because I choreograph all the time, and I would have the woman I love.
KH: What’s your favorite thing about Denver?
Being at the theater and performing. I feel I can connect with the most people in 5 minutes, I can dance for 5 minutes not needing to talk to the audience but I feel we shared something together.
KH: Do you have a hidden talent?
KGT: I played piano for 10 years, I choreograph and I write poetry but only in French, not English yet. For some reason it’s harder to express the complexity of what I feel when I write in English. I grew up on the French Riviera, close to Nice. I wrote a poem after the attack on July 14 and also choreographed a 20 min ballet called ‘Riviera’ as homage to the victims.
KH: What is your favorite movie?
KGT: Leon:The professional. I love the complexity that I find in films because I can relate to it, like our lives it’s not just black and white but there are so many grey areas. Also, Dracula, I’m a huge Gary Oldman fan, talk about complex characters.
KH: If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you be doing?
KGT: I would be a musician because I played piano for 10 years and I was just as good as in dance and had the training but I end up choosing dance because I had the opportunity to come to America.
KH: What are words you live by?
KGT: “Enjoy while it lasts.” Nothing ever lasts; even your deepest depression moments. It’s going to go away because somebody’s going to give you that phone call or that one person is going to look at you and it’s going to be so comprehensive and all of a sudden you feel like you’re not alone anymore. I’m one of those guys where I’m not just going to just take a bite but I will close my eyes and savor it. It can be a New York cheesecake or potato gratin it doesn’t matter but I really like to savor things.
KH: Why do you dance?
KGT: It’s the best way for me to express my deepest emotions. When my grandmother died, I got back in the studio and told myself that I would dance for her and that helped me so much.
KH: What inspires you?
To see others on stage or in the studios transcend themselves. When I see those dancers who are able to take one moment of their lives and make something out of it all of a sudden I feel they transcend themselves. It’s not about what you see it’s about what you can perceive, what you can sense and I think that’s the beauty of the art.
KH: What advice would you give your 10 year old self?
KGT: Never let go of your dreams. Believe in your dreams and believe it is truly possible. I remember when I was getting ready to come to America and I had big dreams and everybody looked at me like I was crazy, had I listened to those people… (Drops off)
"Also, smile at life and life will smile back."
Colorado Ballet soloist Francisco Estevez rehearses the White Rabbit from ALICE (in wonderland).PwC Presents
ALICE (in wonderland)
February 19-28, 2016
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
With live music by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra
Choreography by Septime Webre
Music by Matthew Pierce
Principal dancers Sharon Wehner and Domenico Luciano rehearse Cheshire Cat from ALICE (in wonderland).
ALICE (in wonderland)
February 19-28, 2016
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
With live music by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra
Colorado Ballet seeks schools and educational organizations throughout Colorado and out-of-state to participate in a free remote live stream of its student matinee performance of ALICE (in wonderland) at 10:30 a.m. on February 18.
“The in-person student matinee performance of ALICE (in wonderland) has been sold out since before the 2015-2016 season began, but students and teachers are still welcome to participate through the live stream,” said Samantha Hyde, Colorado Ballet Director of Education. “Students who would otherwise be unable to see ALICE will have the opportunity to experience a live ballet performance with costumes, sets and a live orchestra. Plus, this production follows Lewis Carroll’s classic book very closely, so students will learn a lot while watching the production.”
This is the third time that Colorado Ballet will live stream a production in its student matinee series, which brings nearly 2,000 students to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex to watch ballet performances with full sets, costumes and a live orchestra. Colorado Ballet hosted its first live stream during the student matinee of La Sylphide in October and its second live stream during the student matinee of The Nutcracker in December. More than 100 sites from 10 Colorado cities and 27 states streamed The Nutcracker student matinee performance. In addition, students in England, Ireland, Ecuador, Greece, Italy and China also participated in the live stream event. The majority of the sites were schools, but four hospitals including Denver Health also participated.
“The response we have received on the live streaming of our student matinee series has been incredible,” said Hyde. “We heard back from so many teachers after The Nutcracker live stream and the students were mesmerized by the dancing and music. One teacher who works in a dual-language school said it was incredible that we offered a performance that could be understood in any language. That is what we hope to accomplish with this series; impacting students from all over Colorado and the U.S. through the power of dance.”
Based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” with characters from “Through the Looking-Glass,” ALICE (in wonderland) includes choreography by Septime Webre and music by Matthew Pierce, performed live by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra. ALICE first premiered with The Washington Ballet in 2012. The total runtime of the production including the intermission is 2 hours and 5 minutes. The 20 minute intermission will feature live interviews with artistic staff and dancers for schools participating in the live stream.
Interested schools can contact Hyde at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, including technical requirements.
|Students participate in live stream of "The Nutcracker" in December 2015
Colorado Ballet will host the second Attitude on Santa Fe at 6 p.m. on February 6, 2016 in the Black Box Theater at the Armstrong Center for Dance, 1075 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO. The performance will include three ballets choreographed by two Colorado Ballet dancers and one Colorado Ballet Academy teacher, performed by Colorado Ballet Company and Studio Company dancers. The event will also include a three course meal and wine prior to the performance.
Principal dancer Domenico Luciano’s new work, Attraversiamo will feature two pieces of music, “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber and “Pavane for Dead Princess” by Maurice Ravel. According to Luciano, while creating the new ballet, he selected specific dancers because he wanted their artistic input. He had a basic idea in the beginning of his choreographic process and wanted the dancers to naturally contribute to the message he was trying to express in the work. He said that he paired every couple together for a specific reason because he knows the dancers so well and he knew how they would interact with each other, which was a big part of each piece. The theme of his ballet is a brief look on the dynamics between people; not all of it is smooth, much like relationships during a person’s life.
Principal dancer Yosvani Ramos choreographed Divertimento Pour Six for English National Ballet's Choreographic Workshop in 2002 and for the first time, Colorado Ballet’s dancers will perform the ballet during Attitude on Santa Fe. The music includes excerpts from “Faust” by Charles Gounod and the costumes are by Suzi Skelton. Divertimento Pour Six is one of seven ballets that Ramos choreographed during the nine years he spent as a dancer at English National Ballet. Ramos said that he is excited to be redoing the ballet for Colorado Ballet’s dancers. The ballet has no theme, but according to Ramos, it is fun, classical work that showcases the dancers performing in it.
Academy instructor and Colombian artist Carolina Pahde-Mallarino has spent the past 15 years of her professional life exploring the idea of “the influence of cultural identity in the creation of art.” Her new ballet with(in)me is set to "Ode to Joy" from the fourth movement of Beethoven's “9th Symphony.” Inspired by the text of F. Schiller’s poem from which the words of the symphony are taken, Pahde-Mallarino expanded her idea of cultural identity to that of identity as a whole. By working with the dancers on questions such as: “Who are you? What makes you who you are? and how are you different from everyone else?” she takes the dancers on a journey to discover their own humanity. She starts the ballet by showing the most outer layer of the performers being, then, little by little, through the use of various dance techniques including classical ballet, contemporary and modern, she introduces new movement ideas. Through these techniques, she reveals other layers beneath the surface until, finally, at the end of the ballet, all that is left is what she calls “original movement,” or movement extracted from the things that make each of these individuals uniquely human.
Doors open at 6 p.m., dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and the performance starts at 7:30 p.m. The cost including the dinner, wine and performance is $75 and seating is limited. Performance-only tickets are also available for $25. To register, visit www.coloradoballet.org/events.
Colorado Ballet hosted another Attitude on Santa Fe event with different works by Colorado Ballet’s dancers in September 2015. The event was sold out.Click here to watch a rehearsal from the September 2015 Attitude on Santa Fe:
You still have time to support Colorado Ballet before this year ends! Donations to Colorado Ballet support all of the company’s programs including the professional company, education and community engagement programs and Colorado Ballet Academy.
|Artists of Colorado Ballet by Mike Watson
Colorado Ballet's 55th annual production of The Nutcracker has officially come to a close at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. We want to thank everyone who helped make this the most successful Nutcracker in the history of Colorado Ballet! More people attended this year's production than ever before, so whether it was your first time or your 55th, we hope you enjoyed our magical production.
Dana Benton and Gregory Gonzales by Mike Watson
At Colorado Ballet, dance is accessible to EVERYONE and ballet can be a part of ANYONE’S life. Donations make so many things possible at Colorado Ballet and that includes are our professional company.
In August, Colorado Ballet earned RAVE REVIEWS at the Vail International Dance Festival performing alongside some of the best dancers in the world. Your donations make these kind of opportunities possible. Your gift will help Colorado Ballet’s vision to be recognized as the BEST BALLET COMPANY between the coasts, known especially for EXCELLENT & EXTENSIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT and a WORLD-CLASS ACADEMY.
Photo: Colorado Ballet dancers Maria Mosina & Kevin Gael Thomas
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