"– 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.
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."