Thomas, who worked with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, moved to Memphis about a year ago from New York and still serves as the artistic director of Collage Dance Collective. Thomas says he’s been impressed by his students’ work ethic. “I’m excited, refreshed by how these kids are right here. They’re ready to work with me.”
Springloaded will include of a number of Thomas choreographed dances, including “Maruji” named after NBE dancers Max, Rudy, and Jimmy who inspired Thomas to incorporate Balanchine’s neo-classical moves with their own hip-hop steps. Thomas’ “Aimez-Vous Bach?” uses Bach’s cello suites mixed to a hip-hop beat by Kurt Smith.
There will also be a dance Thomas created for Opera Memphis’ Faust. “It’s pushing the envelope because it has sexual content. That’s a big thing for St. Mary’s [the site of the Buckman],” Thomas says. “Because of the high teenage pregnancy rate in Memphis, it’s something that needs to be talked about.”
Thomas will step on the stage himself for “Fire,” a work created by former Memphian and Alvin Ailey dancer Uri Sands.
Is he nervous about dancing in front of his students? “Of course,” Thomas admits. “I don’t want to be the teacher with egg on his face. There’s pressure to be the best.” — Susan Ellis