July 18, 1981|
San Francisco, United States
|Current group||Bad Boys of Dance|
Rasta Kuzma Ramacandra (known professionally as Rasta Thomas) was born on July 18, 1981 in San Francisco and is a dancer, martial artist, gymnast and choreographer. Thomas is the founder of the Bad Boys of Dance and is also now the artistic director of the ShowBiz National Talent Competition. Thomas is a past winner of prestigious ballet competitions worldwide and has guested with numerous dance companies. He is married to Adrienne Canterna and has a young daughter.
Early life and training
Rasta Thomas was raised in Washington, DC. His parents—both physicians—traveled widely and took their son with them. When Thomas was two years old, he broke his leg in a jeep accident, and as a result, began disciplined therapeutic physical training. Thomas' father enrolled the boy in tae kwon do lessons at the age of three. By the time Thomas was seven, his father felt he was being disrespectful to his teachers and so, as punishment, enrolled him in ballet classes. When Rasta eight years old (1989) his father sign him up in gymnastics and in Swimming .In gymnastics he was taking private lessons under The Pro internationally well known Head gymnastics coach Jamel Eddin Chaabani from Tunisia who was the head coach of the Tunisian and Saudi National Olympic Teams and has produced big names in the world of artistic gymnastics in the international Arena. Rasta reached under Coach Chaabani s instruction an incredible level during that year. He learned how to do all his acrobatic exercises such as Front handsprings, back handsprings, front air somersaults, back air somersaults, back layouts and round off back handspring back tuck and layout. It was a big achievement considering his very young age( only eight years old ) and the short period he was trained in gymnastics ( Seven months ).
In swimming and during the same year Rasta won the gold medal in the butterfly stroke during the Saudi Arabia Final in Dahran.
Thomas excelled and entered the commercial competition circuit, winning StarQuest, Showbiz, and Star Power dance contests. Over time, he developed aspirations of becoming an action-movie star while working as an étoile, "leading dancer" or star, in the Paris Opera House.
Early career and continued training
Thomas received his dance training from the age of twelve at The Kirov Academy of Ballet, in Washington, D.C., and also studied at Washington School of Ballet. Thomas' father would take his son to see all the great ballet companies that would perform at the Kennedy Center for the Arts. His father would then ask dancers if they would grant his son classes, and they often obliged. At age 13, Thomas trained under Dawei Zhang at the Maryland Youth Ballet; of Zhang, Thomas said "The technique I learned from him is the blueprint that's allowed me to have a career." At the age of 13 he became the youngest person ever to receive the Jury Prize at the 1994 Paris International Dance Competition. Although he was enrolled at Kirov in time for the 1996 Varna International Ballet Competition, the school had a policy of only sending dancers sure to win the gold. So Thomas represented the Seiskaya School of Ballet of New York instead (with whom he was doing guest performances at the time) and Gerald Arpino, Arthur Mitchell and Debbie Allen sponsored him at a cost of $30,000. At 15 he was awarded the Junior Gold Medal at the event, becoming the youngest ever to win and while on a foot he injured in karate class. After his win, The New York Times announced, "Look out, world. Rasta Thomas has arrived." In 1995, Thomas became a member of Le Jeune Ballet de France, and in 1997 was invited by the Hartford Ballet to be a principal artist. At the 1998 USA International Ballet Competition, Thomas won the gold medal, a scholarship, and a cash prize in the senior men's division.
In 1998, already a seasoned performer despite being a minor, he was given a special dispensation, and was permitted to perform in the senior division of the USA International Ballet Competition (USAIBC).a[›] Thomas won the gold medal, and at 16 years old became the youngest to win in the senior division, beating Mikhail Baryshnikov's previous record age of 18. The win opened up new opportunities for the dancer. Later that year, he and three other dancers, including Adrienne Canterna, originated the piece for the tenth season of The Vail International Dance Festival. The couple performed at the festival again in 1999.
Upon returning to the US, he went to Los Angeles to begin his commercial career: he hired an agent, danced in a GAP commercial and had a solo in the Debbie-Allen choreographed 1999 Academy Awards. Thomas conceived and directed In Homage: A Tribute to Families With AIDS, a benefit for Self-Help Community Services and its Family Home Care program. He was enjoying commercial success and popular recognition, but after a conversation with one of his mentors, Arthur Mitchell, he decided to "get back on an artist's path."
Rasta Thomas, The Dancer Within (2008)
Thomas moved to New York City and joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem (under the tutelage Mitchell) in what would prove to be their last season. Instead of signing to another company, Thomas, in an unconventional move, decided to become a guest dancer. While Thomas was dining with choreographer Vladimir Angelov, a friend told Thomas that he was wasting his talent by only performing at galas. Angelov agreed, remarking that excellent danseurs are expected to belong to premier companies. Shortly after their dinner, Angelov introduced Thomas to Gerhard Rieder, who presents the Kirov Ballet in Europe, who in turn introduced Rasta to the Kirov's company manager, Makharbek Vaziev. Rieder invited Thomas to perform in Kirov's February 2001 three-hour gala in St. Petersburg, but on such short notice, Thomas only had a week to train with the company and he was worked in only one hour before the show began. He performed a dance Angelov choreographed to "Flight of the Bumblebee," to rave reviews, including from Valery Gergiev, artistic director of the Kirov Ballet and Opera. Vaziev invited Thomas to residency with the ballet and a stipend of $150 a month while granting him freedom accept independent work; Thomas declined due to a filming commitment in the movie Without a Word, so Vaziev extended his invitation to the fall. Thomas found the filming experience disappointing and, realizing his dancing career was finite. He then decided to dance for six months in Russia with the Kirov Ballet. Rasta moved to St. Petersburg in October 2001. While there, he most notably danced as Swan Lake's Jester, Carmen's bullfighter, and Le jeune homme et la mort's Young Man. Vaziev's custom of casting roles right before performances, meant Thomas would prepare for all the principal roles he thought he might be called upon to dance. However, after being overlooked for key roles, Thomas became disenchanted and, coupled with his father's illness, Rasta moved back to Maryland to February 2002. The following October, he carried the torch and performed in the opening ceremonies of USAIBC.
Thomas has appeared as a guest artist with such companies as the Kirov Ballet, Imperial Russian Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Beijing Central Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Victor Ullate Ballet of Spain, Inoue Ballet of Japan, and the Universal Ballet of Korea. Thomas danced in the ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House as a guest artist in a Lar Lubovitch production of Othello. He also played the role of Timmy in Patrick Swayze's 2005 DVD One Last Dance. In 2005, Thomas performed a solo in Lar Lubovitch's US debut of Elemental Brubeck. Dance Magazine, in response to his performance, said "A creature of the stage, his presence is magnetic (if lacking nuance), and he relishes all the scrutiny he demands." The New York Times said that the success of the piece can be credited to the "innate good taste and nuanced phrasing that informs Mr. Thomas's spectacular, crystal-clear performance." That same year, he debuted on Broadway as the lead character Eddie in the hit musical Movin' Out, and went on to work with the Movin' Out touring company. Thomas was featured on the winter 2006 cover of movmnt magazine. He choreographed and performed a well-received "stand-alone acrobatic ballet solo" for "Poetry in New York," a flamenco musical by Rafael Amargo. In late 2008, Thomas gathered several high-profile young dancers and invited them to judge an open video competition, where amateurs could enter a three-minute video of their solos via YouTube or divacompetition.com. In July 2008, Thomas and 11 other gold-medal winners of previous USAIBC competitions were included in a one-night-only IBC Reunion Gala in Jackson, Mississippi.
Rasta Thomas, The Dancer Within (2008)
Thomas was interviewed for the book The Dancer Within: Intimate Conversations with Great Dancers by Rose Eichenbaum, a collection of interviews with prominent dancers. The book accompanied Eichenbaum's touring photography exhibition, also called The Dancer Within, which sought to celebrate "the act of dancing and the lives of dancers."
Bad Boys of Dance
In 2007, Thomas founded the Bad Boys of Dance company (BBD). Based in Takoma Park, Maryland, it is one of two dance companies housed under the Echo Park Contemporary Ballet Centre, managed by Cedric Tillman and Kenneth Rascher. Thomas chooses the dancers from competition, Broadway, and ballet backgrounds. Rock the Ballet! is a BBD show that incorporates jazz, hip hop, tap and gymnastics into its ballet elements. The show has featured alumni of So You Think You Can Dance (including Craig DeRosa, Nick Lazzarini and Danny Tidwell), as well as Thomas' own wife, Adrienne Canterna. Making its debut performance at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in July 2007, the troup has danced throughout North America and Europe, including Finland,. BBD opened the two-week USAIBC on June 12, 2010.
Critical response to BBD has been mixed, while popular response has been enthusiastic. After seeing one of their early performances, Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times called it "the dance equivalent of a water-bomb gang," remarked that Thomas's performance displayed "theatrical intelligence" and concluded that BBD "resembles a group of friends, gifted performers with individual presences who enjoy one another's company and blessedly have not an ounce of earnestness in them."
Thomas is widely regarded as one of the best dancers of his generation. However, his career path has been the topic of much intrigue. In a 2002 article with Dance Magazine, after recounting the illustrious but independent career Thomas had experienced by the age of 20, Judith Lynne Hanna asked, "Can anyone continue at such a pace for an entire performing career?"
Thomas married long time sweetheart, and fellow dancer, Adrienne Canterna on March 31, 2007, and they had their child, Anami Halo (meaning "nameless angel"), on October 3, 2007.
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- The Dancer Within: intimate Conversations with Great Dancers. Rose Eichenbaum, Aron Hirt-Manheimer Wesleyan University Press, 2008 ISBN 0-8195-6880-5, ISBN 978-0-8195-6880-9 pp 188–190