The Bad Boys of Dance, who make their West Coast debut this week, haven't been kicked out of companies for smoking in the studio or snapping people's dance belts. They won't steal your wallet, although a few of them could probably steal your girl, says founder Rasta Thomas. They're bad as in badass, hotshots cross-trained in ballet, hip-hop, jazz and modern, fighting what he considers the biggest crime in dance today: boredom. "Right now, dance is at a higher technical level than it has ever been," he says. "But what it's missing is raw energy, sex appeal and fun."
Although he's just 28, Thomas speaks with some authority. A ballet prodigy who trained in D.C., he made his TV debut at age 12 and won two elite international competitions, Varna and Jacksonville (the Olympics of the ballet world), by age 16. Competition winners usually parlay that kind of success into contracts with professional companies—ensuring job security in a notoriously competitive industry—but Thomas surprised many industry insiders by becoming a professional gypsy, guesting with troupes ranging from Russia's Kirov Ballet to Dance Theatre of Harlem.
"I had a lot of mentors, but I never really found a home," he said. Ultimately, though that worked in his favor: Learning new styles from multiple directors made him a better dancer, and seeing the world made him and associate director Adrienne Canterna-Thomas (his competition partner-turned-wife, who also appears here) determined to do things differently when they formed a company. Attracting dance newbies, including the iPod generation, meant accepting commercial concerns. "Dance is an art, but it's also a business," Thomas says matter-of-factly. "An all-male company has a certain kind of appeal, like a boy band."
This band, drawn from fellow competitors and friends, includes So You Think You Can Dance finalist Craig DeRosa, former Oregon Ballet Theatre principal Jon Drake and Broadway veteran Robbie Nicholson, in athletic, showy pieces set to Michael Jackson, Prince and Queen. Story ballets, which don't quite meet the badass standard, will not be included. "I like Sleeping Beauty," Thomas says, "but I wouldn't want to subject my friends to that kind of torment."
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 790-2787. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 15-17. $20-$55.