After a successful run of The Nutcracker in December, Ballet San Jose is all caught up in the magic of love! The company has spent the past month preparing in earnest for the company premiere of Don Quixote — or, as we like to call it, ballet’s original romantic comedy. While Kitri polishes her fouettés and Mercedes perfects her sultry smolder, we’re continuing our Artist Spotlight blog series, in which we have been focusing on the new dancers in the company this season.
For all the male dancers out there, here’s another interview just for you! Thomas Baker is a new apprentice with the company, and he has some pretty interesting stories to tell. Find out how Thomas got his start in ballet, his favorite memories from 2012, and the inspiration that made him such a fabulous “Fritz” in the world premiere of Karen Gabay’s The Nutcracker.
Tell me about your dance background before coming to Ballet San Jose.
I started in Utah when I was almost sixteen years old, which is a pretty late start. I began studying at a really small school under a woman named Bene Arnold (of Ballet West Academy). After about six months of training, somehow I got into San Francisco Ballet School. I went there on full scholarship for three years and had a lot of great teachers who really helped and guided me. After that, I got an apprenticeship with Oregon Ballet Theatre and was there for two years. And now I’m here!
That’s a very unique story! Since you started a little later than some other dancers, what inspired you to start dancing at that age?
I moved to California during my freshman year of high school with my dad. Then, during my sophomore year, I went back to Utah and my best friend was going to a performing arts high school. So I said, “Okay, I’ll go with her.” Originally, I thought I might want to do something like musical theater, but it turned out that I actually loved dancing.
Did you have a chance to explore San Jose before we started rehearsing for the season and for Nutcracker in the fall?
I was actually born in San Jose, so I still have family in the area and know my way around a little bit. I was able to come down about a week and a half early and get situated. I met a lot of people and made some new friends before the season even started!
Name one dancer who has inspired you in your career so far.
There have been so many. But Alison Roper of Oregon Ballet Theatre — I think she’s just the perfect example of professionalism. She’s been a principal dancer for many years, but she walks into the studio and treats everyone equally. No matter who gives her any sort of suggestion, she takes it, she listens, she never gives an ounce of attitude, and she’s just gracious at all times. That’s a big inspiration for me. It helps me remember that no matter how successful you become, at the end of the day how you treat people is how you’ll be remembered.
Describe yourself in three words.
I would say that I’m outgoing. I’m very caring. And I think most people would agree that I’m rather energetic.
What movies or events did you enjoy in 2012?
I performed in the Dance United Gala with OBT. There were principal dancers who come from all over the world for the event, so I really had a lot of fun. I also really enjoyed moving to San Jose and getting to know the city and people in it!
You were cast as “Fritz” in Karen Gabay’s new production of The Nutcracker in December and a lot of people really enjoyed the youthful energy you brought to the character. Have you played that role before?
It’s interesting that you ask that because it relates to why I enjoyed that role so much. I never had the opportunity to perform children’s roles, starting dance so late, and I never thought I would. Being Fritz was like getting to live out that experience of being a kid in the party scene! Not to mention it was an excuse for me to be as rambunctious as I could be.
What non-dancing hobbies or activities do you pursue in your time off?
I love to draw. Art and drawing are my biggest passions outside of dance. I also adore good food. Probably a little more than what a ballet dancer should, but this has led me to really enjoy cooking and experimenting with different recipes and food styles.
What works in the new season are you most looking forward to?
I’m really excited for Don Quixote, which opens Feb. 15th, because it’s a full-length that I’ve never done before. I’m also looking forward to Glow-Stop by Jorma Elo and Clear by Stanton Welch, which we recently started working on.
As a new Ballet SJ dancer, what is one thing you want to say to Ballet SJ’s fans and supporters?
I’m excited to be in your city and I hope you’ll come support the ballet! Everything we do is for the audience. It’s the final element, beyond the dancing, orchestra, lighting, costumes, etc., that adds to the magic of what we do. Lastly, thank you for your support and enjoy our great season!
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Ballet SJ on February 15 with the company premiere of Don Quixote. Thomas and the rest of the company will light up the San Jose Center for Performing Arts in this staging by Artistic Advisor Wes Chapman that includes sumptuous costumes courtesy of American Ballet Theatre. Subscribe to the entire season or purchase single tickets to Don Quixote at www.balletsj.org, or call our Box Office at (408) 288-2800 during regular business hours!
Have a great weekend!