BalletHub's "Dancing Abroad" features dancers with professional careers outside of their home country. Today, we talk with Kevin Gael Thomas from France.
BalletHub: Welcome Kevin! So, where did you begin your training in France and when did you first get the idea to dance in another country?
Kevin Gael Thomas: I started my training in France at the age of eight. I was first introduced to the art world when my mother guided me in a dance-music school. It was an institution that offered academic classes in the morning and art classes in the afternoon. After a few months spent in singing class, my music teacher let my parents know that I definitely had talent in the arts but not as a singer…
So I switched to ballet! After many years of hard training, as I watched a Dance TV show about young French talents signing their first contracts in New York, I told myself “Why not me!”.
Is it common for ballet dancers to leave France to pursue a career? Have others from your school also danced abroad?
Over the last eight years of my life in America, I have had the privilege to dance alongside sensational artists from all over the world.
It is not very common for French Ballet dancers to pursue a career in America. One simple reason is that plane tickets are very expensive to come for an audition that may not even end up with an employment opportunity.
So for obvious reasons, it seems like they have a tendency to stay around Europe. This is what most of my professional dancers friends ended up doing. I was one of the lucky ones!
What are some of your favorite roles you’ve danced professionally with a company or on guestings?
Over the last eight years of my life in America, I have had the privilege to dance alongside sensational artists from all over the world. Evolving amongst them helped me reach defining moments of my career with the Colorado Ballet. Roles such as the “Whip Boy” in Glen Tetley’s “Sacre” or the title role in Michael Pink’s “Peter Pan” will forever mark who I am as an artist.
Do you visit France often? If so, do you keep busy with guestings or teaching? What about down time?
I try to make it back to France once a year to visit my family. Being with them helps me recharge my batteries and find peace of mind. Less business, more down time to work on my tan at the Beach and let my feet soak into fresh Mediterranean salty water. Great place to recover from sixty shows seasons!
Aside from that, I love to teach at various ballet schools of the French Riviera. Transmitting to a younger generation what my ballet masters taught me before is such a source of inspiration for me. I also get to perform with them as a guest artist every year. The international recognition has its advantages. Dancing in America has such a strong impact of people’s perception of you.
BH: What do you miss most, on a personal level, about France?
Dancing is about expressing our feelings through our technique and not the other way around!
I have to say that as far as my career I am grateful to be in the states but there’s something I truly miss about France is the quality of the food… Huge difference in between these two cultures!
I also do miss going to watch live soccer games at the stadium with my father.
In the past few years, you’ve begun exploring other ‘avenues’ of dance, like choreographing and teaching. What do you like the most and why?
Lately I have been offered the chance to teach and choreograph. It started in France and now goes on in the states.
Being given the possibility to share your deepest fears and doubts through movement in a studio with dancers who are fully committed to your cause is for me the reason why I claim to be an artist.
What do you hold on most to from your ballet training in France?
Having spent many years at Rosella Hightower’s ballet school in Cannes made me understand that it was all about the emotion that you can create through any movement that you dance. Dancing is about expressing our feelings through our technique and not the other way around!
Its not uncommon for a boy taking ballet in America to be picked on by classmates at school. In France, the birth-place of ballet, do young boys get the same bullying or is boys in dance more common?
I unfortunately have heard of those bullying stories a few times in the States but it never really affected me growing up in France. In different countries of Europe, being an artist is considered to be part of a certain élite such as scientists or politicians.
The increase of Dance television shows since the nineties has also helped ameliorate the image of ‘boys dancing’. I feel that its created a greater understanding of what it physically and mentally takes to dance.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring dancer who may have dreams to one day dance abroad?
I believe that in order to accomplish some of your wildest dreams such as dancing abroad, one should never forget that our worst enemy is our fear of failure. For some it can be caused by the fear of being harshly judged by their entourage. For others it could be the overwhelming pressure of trying to reach success without any family around to truly support them. But in the end it all comes down to one question: Are you capable of leaving everything behind for your passion? By that, I mean leaving your family, friends, culture…
When I left France at the age of sixteen, I knew that coming home without a contract at the end of my training at Canada’s National Ballet School was not an option for me. So I used perseverance until I accomplish my goal of making it into a ‘corps de ballet’. No matter what people will tell you about whether you can make it or not; having faith in what you do everyday for you art will pay off if you truly believe in your cause.