HOME: Thomas ES Kelly, winner of the prestigious Dreaming Award for an emerging artist at the National Indigenous Arts Awards, loved  growing up in the Tweed.
HOME: Thomas ES Kelly, winner of the prestigious Dreaming Award for an emerging artist at the National Indigenous Arts Awards, loved growing up in the Tweed. Kate Holmes

Tweed's Kelly is choreographing the dream

WHILE his new home, broadly defined, is "basically across the eastern seaboard,” as Thomas E.S. Kelly puts it, the nomadic choreographer and performer has nothing but fond memories of growing up in the Tweed.

Kelly, 27, recently won the 2018 Dreaming Award as an emerging artist in the National Indigenous Arts Awards, and is now touring his new dance show [Mis]conceive across the country. The Tweed Daily News had a chat to the Bundjalung, Wiradjuri and Ni-Vanuatu artist about growing up in the Tweed, the honour of receiving the Dreaming Award, and his new show ahead of his upcoming Lismore performance.

What was it like growing up in the Tweed?

I've always been a border boy. I grew up in Palm Beach and Tweed Heads, went to Terranora Primary School, Kingy High School, played for Bilambil Jets, Tweed Seagulls and a year of senior footy for Cudgen Hornets.

My main thing growing up was footy and dancing, and my first job was part of the Aboriginal dance troupe at Currumbin Sanctuary.

I absolutely loved growing up there. I had all my family around. I'm a Bundjalung, Wiradjuri man, and the Tweed being Bundjalung country, my grandmother was born at Fingal Head, it's my family's country and that's big for me.

It's exciting I come back on a regular basis. I feel the pull from my youth being with family and friends. It was really quite an inclusive place to grow up in.

What does the Dreaming Award mean to you?

It's quite an amazing award. The people who have won it before me are some of the front runners that are changing the arts, people like Nakkiah Lui and Teila Watson. The lineage I joined by being a part of it is so exciting. To get that recognition to be seen is humbling and amazing. I'm the first dance artist to receive the award and I'm not oblivious to that. I'm thankful for the opportunity and want the platform of dance to benefit from this. The award might be on my shelf, but I want to benefit this whole thing.

The support from the indigenous arts community about what I am doing is exciting and important is the best thing I could ask for.

What can we expect of your show [Mis]Conceive?

[Mis]Conceive is a dance theatre work with four performers. It's physically charged, it's funny and important. Especially being a born-and-bred Bundjalung boy I'm sure many people will connect with the work.

Why did you think this was an issue that could be tackled via arts and dance?

Dance and choreography allows new worlds to be created without having to verbally prescribe them. This is important to me because people are able to get out of the show what they want. If I just say what's wrong and place it on a platter, then I feel sometimes it's not always taken.

- Thomas E.S Kelly plays Lismore City Hall, 1 Bounty St, on Friday, June 29, 7.30pm and Saturday, June 30, 2pm and 7.30pm.

For details visit norpa.org.au.



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