Recently I had the great pleasure of interviewing Robbie Kmetoni who is an absolute inspiration to the next generation of young performers! At just 22, Robbie is already a world-wise performer with a refreshing humility and amazing passion for this industry!
Straight out of high school at the age of 17, Robbie was chosen as one of Australia’s Top 20 on Channel TEN’ hit TV series ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, 2010. Robbie was fortunate enough to win the entire season choosing a contract to tour the world with the renowned ballroom and dance sensation ‘Burn The Floor’, mentored by the one and only Jason Gilkison. As a result, he has been traveling the world for 4 years performing to audiences and finishing off 2013 with a successful six month run in West End, London. Here in this two-part interview, we talk with Robbie about his experiences with “Burn The Floor” and what it’s like to work with the world renowned Jason Gilkison.
You won So You Think You Can Dance in 2010, can you tell us about what you’ve been up to since?
‘Wow, that was 4 years ago! Well 2 months after winning “So You Think You Can Dance” I joined “Burn The Floor”, which is Jason Gilkison’s renowned ballroom show – it has been going now for 14 years. So I left Sydney to head to London where I joined the Broadway cast on the West End for around two months. After that we moved onto a nine-month tour of the USA, which was incredible! Might I add, this was a part of my prize for winning “So You Think You Can Dance”, a nine-month contract with the show. This then turned into 4 years with the show and I feel very fortunate for being able to do that! In those 4 years we travelled all over the world. This included Japan, Hong Kong, all over Europe, six months of shows in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, South Africa, plus more I can’t think of at the moment!’
Which was your favourite place and experience being a part of “Burn The Floor”?
‘I’d have to say South Africa actually! It’s been such a joy ride, dancing every single day and performing in front of an audience. Learning something different is something I really appreciate and learning all about ballroom dancing and from the best in the industry is something you can replace! I have a new passion in dance now and that is Latin and Ballroom.’
Is something you’d like to continue with?
‘Yeah, I’m hoping to continue that. I’ve been doing classes since I got back from touring and I’d like to someday get onto “Dancing With The Stars”**- whatever country that may be in.’
** DanceLife would like to note, that since this interview, Robbie has been contracted with the latest season of “Dancing With The Stars” in Australia and will be partnering Olympic gold medallist snowboarder, Torah Bright – Congratulations Robbie!
What have you been up to since being back in Australia?
‘I’ve been doing a lot of workshops and teaching around Australia. I’ve altered my career a little bit and have been trying my hand at acting by doing a few TV commercials for Toyota and McDonalds. This has been a bit of an eye-opener for me as in where my passions stand and it’s made me realise that I’d like to try out acting for a bit too. I might eventually do a course and then to London and try and make it in both dancing and acting.’
Wow, you’ve had such a fantastic platform to build from what you were given in “So You Think You Can Dance”!
‘Yeah and not only just that, but I was very fortunate with my teachers beforehand! My dance school gave me so many opportunities to work with incredible choreographers and knowledgeable teachers, which opened a lot of doors at quite a young age. Then after “So You Think You Can Dance”, working with Jason Gilkison, who has been my biggest mentor in the world, was a life changing experience and now I’m his assistant. I have to thank him for A LOT of things and he is such an incredible man.’
What was your experience in ballroom before “So You Think You Can Dance”?
‘I had none. I think I took one class before I joined the Top 20 to get me in the zone and to understand it before the show started. But other than that, my first lesson essentially was my first day of rehearsals for “Burn The Floor” in London! It was an absolute nightmare I remember (hahaha)!! I was very lucky because my dance partner, Janet Monroe was Top 8 in the “US So You Think You Can Dance” Season 5 and was incredible. We joined the very same day, we had an instant connection and now we’re best friends – which was very comforting!’
In terms of mentoring you, what is Jason Gilkison like?
‘He’s just an incredible genius! I think he works with you’re strengths and creates from there. For example, we have a duo piece in the show (my partner and I) where he has used our contemporary backgrounds and has mixed it with ballroom. So it’s infused our actual talents and style of dance with a little bit of Cha Cha and Latin to make it our own. That’s what he does, he doesn’t use what his advantages are, he creates piece around the dancers and moulds it into something spectacular. His ideas and explanation of movements, you just get it and understand it straight away. As a dancer, that’s the most difficult thing about joining a new company. You don’t know what to expect or how you’ll fit in and you do get homesick. But for me, I never did, because I felt comfortable in my work, which translated to my personal life.’
The Burn The Floor phenomenon has evolved over the years – can you tell our readers a bit about that?
‘When I was there for the four years, the show changed four times. Which is a lot to learn, so many new routines! But in saying that, that is why you can stay with the show so long. I know some people who have been with the company for 13 years because the show keeps evolving, giving them new inspiration. It’s never boring; you change your personality on stage and be who you want to be. There is no script, it’s just pure dance for 2 hours.’
How many are in the cast and could you give us a general idea what to expect in a show?
‘Usually there is 18 dancers in each cast, so 9 couples and there are also 2 percussionists and 2 live vocalists. There really isn’t much staging either, just the stage and a platform with the 2 percussionists on the sides. There are lots of costume changes! A lot of music – the music is INCREDIBLE! The dancing is intense and is extremely sexy but it’s also suitable for all ages to watch. If you are an aspiring dancer I’d strongly recommend you go and see Burn The Floor because it gives you so much inspiration, no matter style you do. I saw it back in 2008 and it did just that for me.’
Stay tuned for the next instalment of our Interview with ROBBIE KMETONI coming next week!