Warm up this chilly February with our red-hot person of the month, Alrick (Ricky) Thomas. Read on to follow his evolution from a shy student to turning for life to the artist he is today...
MA: Do you remember your first dance class?
AT: I remember vaguely, my first dance class. I was about 9 years old and my mom had signed me up to take an African movement class. Located in Harlem on 125th Street. I wore a pair of sweat pants and an over sized white T-shirt, ready for action. My teacher's name was Ms. Charlene and there were about 15 girls. I was the only boy. I remember being anxious and excited about dancing and the music, but also being very shy with others (which currently stands today). I caught on to the steps quickly and made the decision that I was going to persue an African dance career all in one day. lol
MA: Describe your signature movement style in 4 words.
AT: Tilt . Grab. Look. Back.
MA: What advantages and challenges did you face growing up in the city?
AT: Some advantages growing up in the city would definitely be saving a lot of money and not HAVING to pay rent. Being accustomed to most areas. Knowing secret spots to hang out and have a good time. But most of all having a good network connection with other dancers, teachers, choreographers, and artists at a younger age who can help or point you in a right direction.
Some disadvantages for me would be learning different genres of dance at a later age. I didn't truly learn about styles such as Jazz, Contemporary, Post-Modern. Growing up and going to HSA and the Ailey School, I mostly trained in Ballet, Graham, and Horton.
MA: Tell us how you went on to choose The University of the Arts.
AT: I knew I wanted to go away for college to get a different experience of dance and life. I auditioned for only three colleges where I had known people that attended. CalArts, North Carolina Institute of the Arts, and University of the Arts. I had my heart sold on CalArts because some of my good friends were out there and loving it, so I wanted to be with the crew and be around people I knew. But once I audition for UArts my mind quickly changed. It was so different from the others, not only did the audition consist of ballet and modern like most, but it also consisted of jazz. Something about kicking my leg up to my forehead, switch-leaping, and turning for my life spoke to me. I had a blast and totally forgot I was auditioning for college. I was accepted to all three colleges but went with UArts because A) It was closer to home, B) I got more money, and C) I knew personally I'd learn what I needed for my artistry.
MA: How has your perspective on dance changed from Freshman year to now? Or how has it not changed?
AT: Dance has tremendously changed for me from Freshman year to now. Freshman year for me was about high legs, nice lines, and having great technique. If there wasn't a tilt involved I was not interested. As of now, I'm more interested in the process and choice of moving, which is what I work on personally. I am most interested in watching an artist make a choice from one movement to the next, and voicing their choice through the movement. Don't get me wrong, I still love legs, lines, and technique, but I appreciate more the decisions to support it all.
MA: Do you have any pre performance or post performance rituals you must follow? A certain meal, drink, or exercise you never skip?
AT: I guess my ritual is to be completely relaxed before performance. I stare at myself in the mirror for minutes, visualizing how the performance is going to go. Then find a corner and crack my hips open (butterfly, straddle), then go back to the mirror for a quick stare down.
MA: Elisa's work has a lot of lifting and the dances demand solid full body strength. What do you do to keep your body in shape and strong, besides dancing?
AT: I am secretly a Gym Rat. I try to go to the gym at least four days out of the week, working mostly on upper body strength and core. I like to make sure my muscles are properly supported before a partnering sequence. I've also taken gymnastics classes. It's a great tool to be aware of your body, even upside down.
MA: Do you have any advice for someone pursuing a professional dance career?
AT: The biggest advice I found useful is to never give up. I've had people, even teachers, tell me its too late for a career. The same teachers today look at me in shock. Your body is your instrument and you need to make it work for you. And if you're not happy with something you have control over, fix it. Make it work!
MA: Describe your typical day off.
AT: I definitely sleep in on my days off. Check my phone, then roll out of bed to shower, brush my teeth, and moisturize my face. I usually check online media to see if any more my favorite choreographers are teaching for the day. If not, and I have some change, I like to thrift shop or look for sales because I love clothes and creating outfits. I'll usually meet up friends to paint the town red or just have a good time in the city. Now that it's cold, raining, or snowing, you can find me in bed married to Netflix or Huluplus, catching up on my shows with a glass of wine :).
MA: If you could perform any work by any choreographer (besides one of Elisa's or Tiffany's) any where in the world, what would you choose?
AT: Man, there is so many works I wish I could just throw myself into. But whenever I picture a movement quality or phrase that inspires me. I draw from Crystal Pite's Dark Matter. I've only seen excerpts and demos, but the choreography makes me feel like I'm experiencing and witnessing magic. So I can only imagine what it would do for me if I was casted.
MA: Can you describe a little of your own choreography style?
AT: My choreography is definitely inspired by choreographers, dancers, and friends that I have worked with throughout the years. If I had to, I would categorize my work as Contemporary Ballet because there are a lot of technical aspects I reference that are balletic or similar. My choreography is also open to personal choices based on the dancer, which makes it a bit more on the contemporary side. I enjoy grounded movement and contact work, that can also result in balletic form. My goal as a choreographer is to take the audience into a different perspective, as if each audience member is entering a different world.
MA: Is choreography something you wish to continue alongside your performance career?
AT: I definitely want to continue choreography with my performance career or even afterwards, so I have more time to focus on it. I am a person who is generally quiet, but when it comes to my work or creativity, I can scream volumes. Its a way for me to say what I want to say without having to actually say it. Thats what I enjoy most. I love every creative aspect down to costume, hair and makeup, lights, sound, and props. Receiving a choreography award and a choreography grant really opened my heart up to another passion of mine that needs to be fulfilled.
MA: Last question: If you were hosting a dinner party and you could invite 3 people, dead or alive, who would you invite?
AT: Thats easy. Hands down:
-Rihanna #1 (best friend in my mind),
-Beyonce (if she's is booked then Ariana Grande)
That would be the best night of my life and I would post it on Instagram.