SPOTLIGHT: Mr Rhys Kosakowski
Photography - Mariano Restrepo
Interview - Taj Hayer
Hailing from Australia and aged just 24, Rhys Kosakowski is one of the most esteemed young male dancers in the industry, largely due to his commitment to constantly push boundaries. At aged 12 he landed the role of Billy Elliot in the Australian production of the same name and was an intense learning curve that developed key skills of hard work and determination.
Following on from Billy Elliot, Kosakowski won an opportunity to train at the prestigious Houston Ballet, America’s fourth largest ballet school, known for technical superiority. Presently, having signed with a model agency, he now splits his time in front of the camera and on stage. We were lucky enough to have a chat with him about his continued success and what it takes to make it big.
How did you get involved in ballet at the very beginning?
I started performing/dancing when I was about 4. My mother put me into a small tap group called The Tap Puppies. Getting a taste of the lights and performing, I quickly wanted to explore more and joined Jazz and Contemporary classes. When I was 9 my dance teacher at the time told me if I wanted to be a professional dancer I had to train ballet also. So I reluctantly joined Ballet classes and just fell in love with it.
As a dancer, who have you looked up to or admired?
When I was younger I really looked up to my Mum because she was a Ballerina and I always watched her videos and loved it! Roberto Bolle has always been someone I look up to, he is so beautiful and clean in his work and has merged his art into the fashion world for years and thats something that excites me and something I definitely will keep doing in the future.
Were there any challenges in growing up being a male ballet dancer at a young age?
I was born and raised in Australia, and yes it was quite difficult. I unfortunately went to a Christian school from grade 1-7. The bullying was consistent the whole time I was there and had to move schools. It's awful how people are so small minded and set in their ways, they just stereo type you as soon as a male is involved with dancing.
Do you think that it is important for ballet dancers to start young?
I think it is very important because training and stretching for classical ballet only works properly when your body isn't fully developed. I started ballet training properly when I was 14 and some people say that is too old.
Is there any differences between how male and female dancers are treated?
It usually depends on the environment of the ballet company you are in. I think some companies put a lot of stress and pressure on ballerinas opposed to the male dancers because there is much more competition and numbers in female dancers. But with male ballet dancers there are usually limited men. So overall, if your in a nice environment and an equal ballet company it should be the same type of treatment no matter what gender.
Is ballet still a world dominated by women or is this changing?
Definitely changing in my opinion, although I feel like it never was dominated by woman. There were always men involved and dancing with ballerinas, but the stereotype was that ballet was only for woman and no one talked about the males involved. So now I think male ballet dancers are getting more recognition for their art.
What does a typical day involve for you?
Right now I'm in audition phase, so typically I would take a two hour ballet class which consists of barre/center. Then rehearse anything I need to and do some improvisation work as well for about an hour. I’ll finish up with a cool down and stretch for the muscles. Towards the end of the day, I will go to the gym and work out my shoulders, chest, back and abs. Also ending with a good stretch. I do this 5 days a week and I will take a yoga class here and there when I can.
What about your diet and fitness regime?
I’m happy to say that I am a proud vegetarian. I was always interested to try it and now that I have done it for close to three years I think everyone should give it a go. My energy and sleep has improved, and my stomach feels better in every way. I love it! But in terms of a diet I don't really have one, I just eat clean and drink lots of water. Fitness comes with a mix of my ballet classes/rehearsals, gym and yoga.
For those that have never been to a ballet, why should they go and what are they missing?
I have to be honest its not for everyone, but I have transformed people into loving the ballet even when they have said it’s not for them. It is a beautiful and different way of portraying classic and historic love stories through movement. No talking, only acting and movement with face and bodies. I think it’s beautiful and such a hard art form to make look elegant and effortless. Which makes it even more exciting to watch.
What are you proudest of so far?
Right now I think I'm proudest of really focusing on my mental health, and trying new ways of going through life/feelings. Staying positive is hard sometimes especially as a dancer going through auditions. Letting doubtful feelings float away and not getting worked up over small things that happen day to day is something I've been working on.
What are you working on at the moment and in the near future?
I have signed with a great modelling agency here in Sydney and I have an agent in NYC, so merging my ballet with fashion is something I love doing and will continue for as long as I can. Shooting and collaborating with talented artists is something I think is so special and I'm fortunate that I have the ability to do it. As for my dance career I'm in audition phase so I have a few big audition coming up in the next 6 months and I'm hoping the universe is on my side for those :)
Does the fashion and dance world lend itself easily to one another?
Fashion is usually about capturing still beauty and art and rarely about movement. So I think photographers love shooting movement because when they capture the right moments its so powerful. Dancers are a great subject to shoot and can teach the fashion world a lot in the sense of how to move a certain way in front of the camera and make it look effortless, and also how to not look stiff and scared. I think the fashion industry and dance world merge very well together, so I would love to see more of it.
And finally, what makes a rakish gent?
Rakish meaning dashing and jaunty. To me rakish is someone who dresses the way they want to dress but has confidence and a warm vibe. Who wouldn't notice that and want to get to know that person. Very sexy.
Quick fire questions
Ideal travel destination - Anywhere tropical
Best store in the world - Any plant store
Gadget of choice - iPhone
Go to pair of shoes - New Balance sneakers
Brand/ designer of choice - Acne Studios
Favorite fragrance - L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme Issey Miyake
Essential grooming product - Ursa Major Vitamin C Serum
Recommended app - Waze
Icon - Nicole Kidman
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