Thursday, 09 April 2020
A highlight of the 2020 Perth Festival was Bangarra Dance Theatre’s remount of their award-winning production Bennelong, starring WAAPA-trained Beau Dean Riley Smith.
Beau’s outstanding performance in the title role won him an Australian Dance Award and Helpmann Award for Best Male Dancer, one of seven Helpmann Awards that Bennelong took out after its 2017 premiere season.
Bennelong was inspired by the life of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior man of the Eora people who led his community through the clash of cultures upon the arrival of Governor Arthur Phillip’s fleet in 1788.
This year’s production at the Heath Ledger Theatre again garnered rave reviews, with Beau singled out for a performance described as “grounded yet charismatic, forceful yet fluid”.
Beau, an Aboriginal man from the Wiradjuri Nation of Central New South Wales, completed WAAPA’s Aboriginal Performance course in 2009.
The Dubbo-born dancer describes how his year at WAAPA taught him about the discipline required to be an artist. He also treasures the advice given to him by course coordinator Rick Brayford to be ‘hungry to learn’.
“Learning different things is knowledge, and one’s own toolbox should be filled with all kinds of tools that can shape your craft,” says Beau. “Always say ‘yes’ to an opportunity that comes your way, you can only grow from these experiences.”
“The atmosphere that WAAPA creates is pretty special, being surrounded by a lot of people who are passionate about their chosen art form.”
After graduating from WAAPA, Beau trained at NAISDA (National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association) Dance College before being invited to join Bangarra in 2013.
In addition to Bennelong, Beau has performed in Bangarra’s Black from Ochres in Vietnam, and danced the Wiradjuri solo from ID in his home-town of Dubbo as part of the company’s 2015 Kinship regional tour.
His first choreographic work, Miyagan, was created with Daniel Riley for Bangarra in 2016 as part of the triple bill OUR land people stories. The work was then featured as part of the company’s 2018 regional tour.
Beau believes that a career in the arts requires passion, perseverance and an ability to maintain a balanced perspective.
“You will encounter a lot of people doubting you as an artist, but you should not feel discouraged,” he advises. “Remember, all you need is one ‘yes’!”