"– those boys wear nothing, just little undies and they’ve all got six packs. I was like, “hell no”."

When I was a kid, I was always making up dance routines. My little sister was a singer and I did the choreography – we each had our niche – but it wasn’t until I was 20 that I actually studied dancing.

Before that I studied acting at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and before that I’d been hoping to become a zoologist – I was a trier, but my grades were terrible.

After WAAPA, I went to the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association Dance College, where I fell in love with dance. From that point there was only one road.

I was in my last year when a friend of mine told me to audition for Bangarra. I wasn’t going to. I used to be a hundred kilos and I’d seen what Bangarra dancers wore – those boys wear nothing, just little undies and they’ve all got six packs. I was like, “hell no”.

I auditioned anyway, just for the experience. A couple weeks later Stephen Page, the artistic director, made me catch the train from Gosford all the way to Bangarra – that’s two hours – for a one-minute conversation. It was the most exciting day, but he was like, “you’ve got the job”, and then I had to catch a train all the way back home.

I remember my first pay. I bought a Ralph Lauren cardigan for $400 that I’d been eyeing off for weeks. I’m one of nine kids. I grew up with nothing – always hand-me-downs. Eventually, I was like, “you know what? I’ve earned it. I’m gonna buy it”. I’ve still got my cardigan. I maybe wear it once a year, and I still get that feeling of pride.

My weight continues to fluctuate, and last year I had to be on a strict diet, because I was wearing a G-string on stage. At the end of the year, I went home and got back to old habits. My family likes eating like chips with gravy and fried Devon. It’s my guilty pleasure – dog-food Devon. That weight went back on and Monica, our head of wardrobe, had to redo all my outfits. She was not impressed.

Beau Dean Riley Smith in 'Whales of Fortune', 'Dark Emu', Photography Daniel Boud, 2018

The first Bangarra work I saw was ID and Daniel Riley, who’s my older cousin, was in it. I didn’t know Dan at that time, but I saw him do this solo called Wiradjuri. That’s where I’m from. That’s my ancestry. I remember walking away with so much pride. I was like, “whoa, it’s a solo about my country”. I actually got to do that solo in Dubbo in front of my family. That was a definite highlight.

My family love what I do. My mum is so bad, though. She tells everyone, including my brothers and sisters, that I’m her favourite and the only good child. It was a different situation before I was in Bangarra. I was the devil child.

Recently, I won an Australian Dance Award for Bennelong, and I spoke to my mum about it the next day. She’s like, “Beau, when you came out of me, I just knew you’d be good”. I may need to disappear now.

"I’m a man of very few words….and dancing brings out the truth in me. I feel safe, nurtured, connected and grounded."
Beau Dean Riley Smith

Beau Dean Riley Smith

Dance Artist (Alumni)

Beau is a Wiradjuri and Gamillaraay man from Dubbo NSW, raised on Yuin Country in Culburra Beach Nowra, now living on Gadigal land.

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