Meet Billy Elliot: Rhys Kosakowski

Note: Rhys’s final show as Billy in the Melbourne production of Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM) was on 19-Apr-2009.

Debut: 13-Nov-2007 (Sydney)

Total Performances as Billy:  Unknown (Data for Sydney show was not recorded) Recorded data: 21.5 (Includes 3 partial shows credited @.5 each)

Rhys Kosakowski headshotRhys Kosakowski was 13-years-old (D.O.B = 18-Oct-1994) when he debuted as Billy in the Sydney production of BETM.  He is from Newcastle, New South Wales, and, before auditioning for BETM, was a student at St Philip’s Christian College.

Rhys started dancing at the young age of five, and he trained in many styles of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, modern and hip hop.  His dance training was taught by Miss Karen A. Thomas, and then at the Marie Walton Academy.  Rhys was also a competitive gymnast.

The first performing experience that Rhys had was with the Queensland Ballet Company, when he performed in their touring production of The Nutcracker.

Rhys as Billy Elliot performing "Dream Ballet". (Credit: Photo by Luis Enrique Ascui)
Rhys as Billy Elliot performing “Dream Ballet”. (Credit: Photo by Luis Enrique Ascui)

Rhys’s first audition for the role of Billy Elliot was in his hometown of Newcastle.  He then underwent many months of intense dancing, singing and dialect training before finding out that he had secured the role.

A similarity that Rhys shares with Billy is that Rhys’s father also worked in the coal mining industry.  He drove coal trains in Newcastle, which, like the English city of the same name, was a coal mining town.

Rhys debuted as Billy in the very first performance at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney on 13-Nov-2007.  This made Rhys the 14th Billy worldwide, and notably the first actor to play the role outside of London.

Furthermore, Rhys was then chosen to lead the Sydney cast at their official opening and press night on 13-Dec-2007.  He rose to the occasion and one reviewer described his performance as follows: “Rhys Kosakowski certainly did not shy from the challenge of playing Billy on opening night. Enthralling to watch, his dancing was more than technically adept. From grief and frustration to outright joy, the emotions underpinning his movement also ran deep. And what an all-rounder! Just as his dancing is sleek and potent, Kosakowski’s singing is tender and his acting true.”

Rhys opening night
Rhys at the opening night performance of BETM in Sydney. (l-r: Rhys Kosakowski, Nick Twiney, Elton John, Lochlan Denholm, Rarmian Newton, David Furnish)

Credit: Photo by eltonjohn.com

Here’s a video giving a glimpse of Rhys’s excellent performance skills.  It is from Australian television and shows him performing “Electricity”:

On 21-Jan-2008 at the Sydney Theatre Awards, Rhys and the other three original Sydney Billys – Rarmian Newton, Lochlan Denholm and Nick Twiney – won the 2007 award for Best Actor in a Musical.  They also went on to win the same award at the 2008 Helpmann Awards.

Rhys continued to perform in the role of Billy when the production was moved from Sydney to Melbourne in December 2008. He eventually performed his final show on 19-Apr-2009, and was the last of the original Australian Billys to leave the cast.

Rhys Electricity
Rhys Kosakowski is Billy Elliot

Life After Billy

After a Houston Ballet Summer Intensive, Rhys auditioned in Sydney for the Houston Ballet Company (the fourth largest ballet school in America) and was offered an apprenticeship.  He danced in such ballets as Cinderella, The Nutcracker and La Bayadere.  He worked with choreographers Alexander Ekman in his ballet Cacti and William Forsythe in Artifact Suite.  He really enjoyed performing opening night in Wings of Wax by Jiri Kylians, replacing the injured Principal.

  • 2012 –  Rhys became a member of Houston Ballet II, which is Houston Ballet’s second company and is a part of the Houston Ballet Academy.  He danced in Stanton Welch’s Rite of Spring and Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages.  

Rhys, aged 17, after being accepted into Houston Ballet II/Credit: Photo by Peter Stoop

 

  • 2013 –  A favorite experience for Rhys was performing in the Switzerland Prix De Lausanne ballet competition in 2013; an international ballet competition for pre-professional dancers.

  • 2014 to 2016 –  Rhys was promoted to Houston Ballet’s main company in 2014 and continued performing with them to 2016.  Among the productions with Houston Ballet, he performed in The Sleeping Beauty as “Puss in Boots” in February/March, 2016 and in Melbourne’s Romeo and Juliet for the Houston Ballet in June 2016.

Credit: Video by Houston Ballet

Any dream collaborations (photographic or otherwise) that you would love to do?
Rhys: “I think my dream would be, to be on the cover of Vogue magazine, and a spread showcasing and telling people of my ballet qualities.  That would be life-changing!”

 
  • 2018 –  In April 2018, Rhys choreographed and danced in Levitate to My My My by Troye Sivan and filmed and edited by Brent Bailey.

Credit: Video by Rhys Kosakowski

  • 2019 –  Rhys joined The Sydney Dance Company in January.  He also split his time with modeling for an agency in Sydney.  For Rhys, dance and fashion are his two favorite passions.  In December, Rhys performed in Tunnel Vision, a three-part story for VMAN, choreographed by Rhys himself.

Credit: Video by Rhys Kosakowski

In an April, 2019 extensive interview article in his hometown newspaper, the Newcastle Herald, he talks about his decision to move back to Australia and his aspirations for the future.  Among other things in the interview, Rhys talked about the fact that in 2016, while still with the Houston Ballet, the American magazine, Vogue, had indeed offered him the cover of the magazine along with an in depth photo spread.  He explains why it didn’t happen: 

“One time,” he says, “my agency contacted me about this job – American Vogue wanted to fly me to New York to shoot with Irina Shayk [supermodel and partner of actor Bradley Cooper].  But we had a show.  The company (Houston Ballet) wouldn’t let me go.”

  • 2020 and beyond –   In April 2020, Rhys created a three-part series showing his morning routine, workout and cool down.  In August, he and Emily Seymour of Sydney Dance Company taught how to plant a garden “oasis of calm” in your home. 

For the future, Rhys is looking forward to performing once again in Australia. He’s also expressed another desire for the future…

He still dreams for that Vogue cover article and photo spread to happen.

For more information about Rhys Kosakowski visit:

Billy Elliot the Forum, Instagram, Facebook

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