Project B teaching case study

Jason Thomas is an RAD Registered Teacher based in Cornwall, UK

“I started dancing at the age of 9 in Cornwall, and at the age of 12 auditioned successfully for Bush Davies School and The Legat School of Russian Ballet. After appearing with the Northern Ballet Theatre on numerous occasions, I attended London Studio Centre, gaining the position of Head Ballet Boy in my second year, and performed all over the world after graduating.

I now have seven dance schools in Cornwall and my students enter exams yearly with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). Many of my students are now at vocational dance colleges or renowned ballet schools.

I teach a remarkable amount of male students – around 30. The RAD’s Project B initiative has had a really positive impact. The boys who have taken part in the activities have been very vocal about it with their friends which has resulted in lots of new male students joining and trying all different styles, from ballet to hip hop. A couple of the boys were teased a little bit, but Project B encouraged them to want to stick with it – they love it.

I was teased too as a kid but was lucky enough to go away to a ballet school, so didn’t have that problem there. It happened when I would come back home, but things are very different now. Schools are much more on board with promoting dance to boys. My students don’t feel that being a boy who dances matters as they can come here and do things like Project B which makes it all worthwhile. I’ve noticed that boys don’t give up on dancing so much nowadays either.

Boys should feel really proud that they dance and not have to feel that they should go along with the crowd. It’s great to see Project B empowering more boys to dance.”

One male student that Jason taught, Alex Smith, is also a serving soldier in the British Army. Alex is currently appearing in Rosie Kay Dance Company’s 10 Soliders, which focuses on the different aspects of military life.

“I started dance at the age of 4, because I had to drop my sister off to class every week and sit there with my mum watching. I was instantly hooked by the way classical music made me feel. The movement of ballet was so pure and clean that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so the next week I went in to see the teacher after class and asked if it was weird or completely acceptable that a guy did ballet; I’d never seen a guy in class before! The teacher told me it’s completely acceptable for me to join in with class. Once I started dancing I just wanted to keep improving and I had found a love and passion that I will forever have for such a beautiful art form!

At 16 I moved to Cornwall to study at the Jason Thomas School of Performing Arts in Truro. This was a big decision and a massive step for me as I’d only ever danced in small schools in Wales. Now I was moving to a new area so that I could better my knowledge and experience in dance, with some of the greatest teachers. Jason is so passionate about teaching and it was clear in my first jazz class with him that it was going to be hard work – but that’s what I wanted.

Project B is something that I will be a supporter of for as long as it is running. I feel so strongly about this as when I was younger there weren’t many opportunities or support for male dancers. I feel this project will reach out to and show other male dancers that it is a good thing to do with your life. It’s a positive thing to get into ballet or any form of dance. I’ve been home to Wales recently and there are far more boys in my old dance school now than when I was there. It’s amazing to see so much fresh male talent in a place that I was taught.

I’m currently serving in the British Army and my commitments are with them at the minute. In future I’d like to move back to dance and performing, and maybe work with the younger generation of male dancers – inspiring them to make the most of dance.”

On teaching Alex, Jason added:

“It was great to teach Alex, he worked really hard in the time that he was here and you could see that he loved dancing. The younger boys all know who Alex is when I mention him and he has inspired so many of them. Seeing him dance such a strong character in Rosie Kay’s 10 Sodlier’s gave the boys something to aspire to.”