Kyle Shilling

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Kyle Shilling is an accomplished dancer, performer and hip hop artist. He’s performed with Bangarra and is currently a lead performer in a production called Man with the Iron Neck. And he also devotes time to working with local youth! We spoke with Kyle recently, and here’s what he had to say.

Hi Kyle. Tell me about you and your background and what led you to become involved in performing and dance.

I grew up here and was in the area up until the age of about 12 – 13. I know that it’s a bit of a cliché, but I wasn’t doing too well in school, running amok and a friend of mine saw that I wasn’t enjoying school. He was a couple of years older than me, and he was attending a performing arts college called NAISDA – National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association – and he said, “Why don’t you come and audition? We do traditional dance here, and we also touch on other styles of performance too”.
So, I gave it a go I auditioned and got in, and from there I did four years studying performing arts. I did contemporary dance, traditional, ballet, drama, jazz – all styles, and an American style called Horton Technique. I finished with a Cert 2, a Cert 3, a Cert 4 and a Diploma in Dance, and after my graduation, I went to dance with Bangarra Dance Theatre in Sydney.

What did you do after you graduated from NAISDA?

I danced with Bangarra Dance Theatre in Sydney for a year, had a lead role in Zeal Theatre, and their production, Role Model, which involved travelling around NSW and parts of Victoria. This show got a really good reception and led to me doing a short film called Hoax, which has received a fair few awards and has been shown in short film festivals all around the world, in LA, Brisbane and Rome!
Later, I got picked up by Helen Pandos Management Agency, who are based in Sydney, Melbourne and LA.
Currently, I’m a lead cast member in The Man with the Iron Neck. It’s been running for about four seasons. We premiered in Brisbane, then performed in Sydney at the Opera House. We then went from Sydney to Adelaide, where we received a five-star rating. Our next stop is Darwin in August.

Gosh, it sounds like you’re busy. You also do some work in our local area – how has that all come about?

At the moment, I’m working with Stacey Lee, and I’m teaching drama, contemporary dance, physical theatre and hip hop. I’m also looking into helping kids write songs. I help them with their lyrics and what it is that they want to get forward on to a track. I also do a lot of cultural workshops, and that involves dancing, painting and didgeridoo; I do that alongside my brother, Jesse and a good friend of mine, Joshua.
What I’m really just out doing is connecting with youth on a level of – not so much a role model – but just someone who can relate to where they may be at this point in their life. A lot of them are from a troubled background, and I am able to just sit them down, tell them that I’ve been there. I’ve gone through what they’re maybe going through (or even worse) and at the end of the day, you don’t have to follow what’s happening around you if you want to get out and do something different.
What I’m trying to get across is that performing arts is a great outlet for kids growing, and I wish I got into it earlier. It’s a great way for them to express their feelings and emotions, whether it be through dance, drama or song.
I am trying to help indigenous, and non-indigenous kids, get together and really start pushing for the “close the gap” thing because, yes, it can be spoken about, but until something actually happens – then nothing will happen! That’s what I’m trying to do in the community.

Are there any performers who have really inspired you?

Definitely, and not just in a dance world. Performers who inspired me growing up were people like Tupac, this black activist who wanted the best for himself and his family and his people. He was a huge inspiration in my life, and he’s what got me into poetry as a kid and writing music – writing raps.
When it came to the dance world, there was a dancer (now a good friend of mine) called Waangenga Blanco, who danced for Bangarra as well. We always got told that if we were too manly or too big, we wouldn’t look good on stage, and I remember the first time I watched Bangarra and this solidly built man, Waangenga, come out, and straight away his movement quality was unbelievable, and I just remember going, “You know what? It’s a load of rubbish that you can’t be this muscular man and perform on stage” – because he’s just absolutely proved to me that you can be.

What would you say so far in your journey have been your high points?

My high point would easily be this Legs on the Wall production, Man with the Iron Neck, and having such a major role in the production, and just coming into this world of acting and theatre that I’d never thought in my lifetime I’d be amongst.
Like working alongside Ursula Yovich, who’s an amazing writer and actor in Australia, and just working with the likes of Legs On the Wall. Going from someone who was always on the ground and next thing you know, I’m flying around the roof in a harness or on a clothesline where, one slip, or one malfunction, and I’m falling metres. It never gets old. Every time I’m in the harness, and I fly up to the roof, it’s just a thrill. Day in, day out. This production and the story we get across is just amazing, and I’m so grateful to be a part of this story and the journey that’s it taken us on and the people who have watched it. It’s obviously my high point.

So, you also do music – tell us about that!

I’m a hip hop artist. I’m pretty consistent with the release of my own music – just sharing my story through my music and writing lyrics that I’m hoping other people can connect with and find some kind of meaning or resolution to what they’re going through at the time.

Future goals and ambitions?

That’s easy! I want to be known internationally. I want to share my story through my music. I want to appear on TV. I want to appear on the big screen. My view is that I want to be internationally recognised and I suppose once I am, I can share stories about the real truth in percentages and numbers of my people to become noticed so that we can get real help. My people need a voice, and I’d like to be that voice. So, that’s me!

How do people find you?

You can find me on YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud under my name, Kyle Shilling, as well as my Instagram account.

Thanks, Kyle.
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.

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