Born in Columbia, Missouri, Rick Gavin Tjia grew up in Gainesville, Florida, where at age eight he began studies in tap dancing, eventually branching out into professional studies of classical ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary dance (training with teachers like David Howard, Finis Jhung, Christine Busch, Bruce Marks, Laura Young and Geri Houlihan). He also trained in other disciplines (trumpet, physics, and later on, guitar studies and various studies in business). After an extensive career in dance and acting that includes performances with Ballet Austin, Boston Ballet and Delta Festival Ballet, as well as three years of work in film and television in Los Angeles doing hip-hop, jazz, and ballet (with choreographers like Twyla Tharp, Joe Layton, and with film directors like Mark Rydell, and James Brooks), Rick joined La La La Human Steps in Montreal in 1993, with whom he danced and toured the world for 8 years. As with many dancers and musicians, Rick is also a composer, a choreographer, and teaches various workshops around the globe.
In 2002 he joined Cirque du Soleil, where from 2004 to the present day he has been a Talent Scout specializing in dance. Over the last several years, Rick’s contributions to the Casting Department has extended itself to contributing to and drawing up new operational and business strategies, as well as contributing to innovative internal and external strategies of various types.
As well as working extensively with Cirque du Soleil and as a freelance artiste / choreographer, Rick is also working closely with International Performing Arts & Theatre through leading dance education in the 21st Century. He is a Patron of Phoenix Associates in England, an organization that offers opportunities and masterclasses to students aged from 6 right through to professional dancers.
Rick was also one of the acrobatic choreographers for the Cirque du Soleil Big Top touring show Volta.
In November 2016, Rick began working with Ukranian hoop manipulation artist Aleksandra Savina as choreographer and coach. Together they are currently developing two new manipulation numbers.
"I have been able to work with Rick professionally through Cirque. I feel he is such an incredible artist, director/ choreographer. He does amazing work. From his vast background he is also an amazing teacher; he knows how to pull amazing things from all kinds of artists."
– Bonnie Story, Emmy Award Winning Choreographer
"During the years I directed Utah Ballet, the most original, challenging, and exciting choreography came from Rick Tjia. And considering that he also wrote, mixed, performed, and recorded the music, created set design, knew precisely what costumes he wanted, tirelessly demonstrated and worked with the dancers, he was by far the easiest choreographer I've ever worked with. Needless to say, the show was a huge hit with dancers and audience alike."
– Regina Zarhina, Owner, Director, School of Russian Ballet, Spain - www.russianballet.es
"Rick Tjia is a most innovative and cutting edge choreographer, extraordinarily creative, multi-talented in a variety of stage crafts. Music, lighting, stage and costume design... "
– Misha Tchoupakov Assistant Professor at the School of Dance, University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA)