Jonathan Thomas in dance studio.

Brenau Voices: Jonathan Thomas

Jan 21, 2022
Kelsey Podo

This student is finding his purpose through dance

When Jonathan Thomas learned his first dance routine his sophomore year of high school, something sparked within him.

The then football player said he was asked to dance in a production of “Cinderella,” thinking he’d be used only to lift female dancers. After learning a few turns and technique, he found himself swept into the artform.

“Not only did it help me as an athlete with hip mobility, turn out, quicker feet, it’s just the connections, the authenticity and genuine vibes of the environment that I was in when I was around women,” Thomas said. “ … There was never any judgment there. I was just like I have no competition. I’m just being myself.” 

After getting his first taste of dance at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Thomas said he continued to take lessons at school and through a local ballet theater. Today, he still follows that passion as a senior dance major at Brenau University. 

“Just being offered that, it just changed me as a person. Being around the women allowed my heart and my energy to be more calm,” Thomas said. “ … I just feel like dancing just saved my life. I know I would not be here without it.”

While taking the stage, Thomas said he doesn’t arrive with an agenda, he comes to dance. He describes his time dancing as a balance between releasing his emotions and interacting with the energy of the audience. 

“I try to be as natural and authentic as I can be,” he said. “I don’t think too much.”

Although Thomas has found his home in dance, practicing it has offered its own challenges. The dancer said his parents weren’t comfortable with him following this path, but with time, they began to accept his choice. 

“My work is my work,” he said. “I had to figure out how to do this. It became something that’s for me. It’s not for them. God gave this art to me, so I have to live it. I have to do it.”

Thomas said entering as a male in the field also posed a hurdle, especially with it being viewed as a “feminine” profession. Weighed down by judgement from others and not being seen as the social standard, the dancer said he became depressed and burdened with anxiety. 

By joining Brenau’s dance department, Thomas said he was exposed to other inspirational male dancers, which strengthened his confidence and assurance of his talent.

“It just became easier for me to where I just didn’t pay attention to whether they cared or not,” he said. “It was for me, and it was something that I wanted to do. Now, I’m at a place where it’s easy.”

Nearing the completion of his bachelor’s at Brenau, Thomas has set his sights on a new horizon — law school. Like dancing, he said he views law as a type of art, something dynamic that involves connecting with others. Thomas said he doesn’t know why he has such a strong urge to pursue law, he just knows it’s worth seeking. 

After taking several courses through Brenau’s Conflict Resolution and Legal Studies program and working at a law firm, Thomas said he has developed a better understanding of other perspectives and his own actions. In October 2021, he placed No. 1 in advocacy at the 19th annual Brenau Invitational Mediation Tournament. Thomas plans to take the LSAT this fall with the hopes of entering law school and later becoming a licensed attorney. 

Even with his newfound interest in law, Thomas said dance will always remain an important piece of himself.

“I know dance will always be there,” he said. “It has gotten me to where I am now. I don’t think I can neglect it and totally take it out of my life. It’s who I am and where I came from.”