Recently accepted as a student by the Royal Ballet, London, 16-year-old Kate Thomas has now been selected to compete in the finals of the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, Switzerland—another career-making moment for this young Texan.
Thomas says ballet relaxes her and enables her to manage all aspects of her life. The Alamo Heights high school sophomore was drawn to ballet because of its historical elements, traditional variations and discipline.
How did your interest in dancing begin?
My mother started me in recreational dance of all types at the age of two at an independent dance studio. I began taking ballet with Vanessa Bessler in first grade at St. Mary’s Hall. [Editor’s note: Bessler is the founder of the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio.]
By fourth grade, I was competing in regional ballet competitions (Youth America Grand Prix, YAGP). When I was in fifth grade, I advanced to the finals in New York City. Since then, I’ve advanced to the finals every year, and have competed in the “Final Round” of the competition (held on the stage in Lincoln Center) in both 2018 and 2019. I’ve also attended ballet summer intensives every summer since 2015. These intensives have taken place in New York, Connecticut, and London.
What does dance mean to you?
Dance is my outlet for everything! It is how I manage all aspects of stress in my life. Also, I’m actually super hyper, and my family is always glad when I leave for dance, and return much calmer. I guess you can say that dance has a calming effect on me!
I am definitely drawn to the historical elements of ballet. I like the traditional variations—dances—and productions that have been passed down through generations. The discipline of ballet has shaped me into the person that I am today. I know that this discipline will serve me well in my professional career whether it be dance or something else.
Tell us about the road to your most recent accomplishment.
My most recent accomplishment was being selected as a Prix de Lausanne candidate. The Prix de Lausanne is an international competition and networking forum for aspiring young artists. I am one of 82 dancers selected out of 400 applicants. It has always been a dream of mine to be part of this competition. I was elated to find out that I had been accepted into the competition at the end of October.
How has the pandemic affected your dance world?
Because of travel restrictions, I am unable to travel to Switzerland in January. However, I will be competing virtually from a studio in Dance Center of San Antonio. My other big disappointment was the YAGP New York finals being canceled in April 2020 due to COVID-19. Skipping school every April for 10 days has been a tradition for me for the last five years. I miss New York. I love that city!
When was your first time to dance before a live audience?
My first memorable performance was in a third grade dance performance. I performed the classical variation of Paquita. I was placed in the front row, and I felt the energy of the audience for the first time ever. It was a magical experience.
What do you like to do when you have some free time?
In my free time, I like to explore restaurants in San Antonio because I love to eat and try new foods. In the summer, I go to camp for four weeks. It is my only true break from ballet out of the entire year! I also enjoy spending time at the Texas coast with my family.
What is one fun fact most people would not know about you?
I have a Texas coast shell collection and a blonde miniature dachshund named Astro.
What would you say to someone who wants to dance, particularly ballet?
I would encourage young dancers to always follow their dream. As a little girl I never dreamt of the opportunities and experiences ballet has provided me. At 16, it still feels surreal.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future as a ballet dancer?
With dance the possibilities are endless, but the goal is to one day obtain a professional ballet contract with one of the major global companies.
Cover: A flying Kate Thomas competing at the Youth America Grand Prix finals. Courtesy photo
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.