I played a lot of sport when I was younger - cricket and basketball. Both my sisters learnt ballet, and my mother sent me along with them. She said it would be good for the sport. I really didn't know why I was there. I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I saw a performance by The Australian Ballet at the Myer Music Bowl. Bryan Lawrence was doing Le Corsaire with Elaine Fifield, and there were 25,000 people there. He had this massive jump, and you could hear all those people gasp when he took off. That got me excited about ballet.
I joined The Australian Ballet School in 1971. In those days, not many men did ballet, so you would be the only boy at your school. I had nothing to evaluate against; I didn't know anything about anything. I joined the School with Simon Dow [now a teacher at the School] and Ross Stretton [who went on to become artistic director of The Australian Ballet]. It was so great to find people who were like-minded and had similar interests. In those days, it was tough for boys that did ballet. I went to Glen Waverley High School, and the headmaster of the school, thinking that doing well in ballet was something to be proud of, would very kindly announce my results to all 1200 students - that didn't work out so well. It's interesting, I think it's not so different today, even though you'd think that we've come so far. I think there are a lot of talented boys who never pursue ballet as a career because of that bullying aspect.
These days, at The Australian Ballet School, we have a mentor program. In Level Eight, each student is assigned a dancer from the company, and for that year they stay in contact with them. They can ask them anything they like about the profession, they can see them rehearse and perform. That experience is invaluable.
When we joined The Australian Ballet, there was nothing like that. When I was new in the company I was very enthusiastic, and in class one day I danced in front of a soloist. No one spoke to me for three months. I couldn’t work out what the hell was going on. Ross [Stretton] asked around and found out what it was I’d done. So, you learnt the hard way. It didn’t matter if you were the first person to come into class – if someone senior came in, you got off the barre and went to hang onto a chair or something. I don’t think it’s like that these days.