BANGARRA Dance Theatre dancer Beau Dean Riley Smith is so busy on tour with production Dark Emu that he has not even looked at the Best Male Dancer Helpmann Award he won this month for his portrayal of Woollarawarre Bennelong.
It was one of seven Helpmann Awards Bangarra took home – six for Bennelong and a Best Regional Touring win for triple bill Our land people stories, which Smith helped choreograph.
“It’s still sitting in the box,” he said.
“We get a week break after Perth, so I was thinking about going home to Dubbo to show mum because she’s already asked if she can have it.”
Smith, an Aboriginal man from the Wiradjuri Nation of central NSW, said he had been so focused on the responsibility of his portrayal of Bennelong, who was the first archetype of the assimilation policy during British settlement, he never thought about the accolades that might come with it.
“The Helpmann Award was not even like the icing on the cake, it was like the freckle on top of the icing,” he said.
“That’s why I think I was so stunned. It’s a really nice thing to have the industry take note. I guess they enjoyed and respected the show. It wasn’t just me getting the award, it was showing this country was ready to hear the story.”
Smith joined Bangarra in 2013 after initially pursuing a career in acting, studying the Aboriginal Theatre course at WAAPA in 2009.
When he did not get in to NIDA, he auditioned for NAISDA Dance College.
“I lived with dancers at WAAPA and appreciated dance and then when I was at NAISDA I fell in love with dance,” he said.
“A friend of mine told me I should audition for Bangarra but I didn’t think I’d get in because I used to be a much heavier person at 100kg; I’m down to 70kg.
“I’d seen Bangarra shows and even though I respected what they did, I’d noticed what they wore. Men wore next to nothing, just little undies. This whole experience with Bangarra has been a ‘pinch yourself’ moment.”
Inspired by Bruce Pascoe’s award-winning book of the same name, Dark Emu is at Heath Ledger Theatre from August 2 to 5.