On the Couch with Damian Smith

National Theatre Ballet School Damian SmithWho is Damian Smith?
Damian is the youngest of six children from beautiful charismatic loving parents. Especially his mother who parented all six kids on her own after his father passed away when Damian was only three.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
My new position as Artistic Director of the National Theatre Ballet School is still very fresh and new. I have been living back in Australia now for only a few months after living in the United States and Europe for the past twenty nine years. Since this is all an enormous change for me – I would say, this is what I’m doing differently than what I was doing before!

Who inspires you and why?
It’s often the small things and simple things in life which impact me the most. A simple act of kindness or demonstration of love and respect for another. A well mannered young man giving up his seat for an elderly women, without having to be asked.

People who want to give and contribute their time to help others for nothing but a simple “thank you.” People who share small unexpected gifts, not on ones birthday or because it’s Christmas when we are all are expected to share. The most inspiring of all are those people who demonstrate faith and courage. People who are willing to put themselves and everything they have on the line to stand up for what is right in a deeply unjust and unequal place – but are sustained, ultimately by hope, faith and courage, that change can be made.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
First I would make it globally compulsory that everybody spends a couple of hours a week in a dance class of your choice and a compulsory 20 minutes (minimum) to stop and breathe or meditate. Secondly, I would have to become a bit of a modern day Robin Hood and take from the very rich in order to distribute what is a human right, to have good food, clean water and some kind of warmth and shelter. And finally, stop wasting money on war, destroy all firearms and start investing in research for science and medicine.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Honestly, that’s a very difficult question because just like my mother, I tend to be optimistic and try and see the good in a place and make the best of it. A glass half full. But the most magical, overwhelming natural beauty would be the time I camped and hiked to the top of Half Dome in the Yosemite National Park in Northern California.

Why? As you come around a bend in the road, you come face to face with the belly of the park – you’re left speechless and overwhelmed trying to absorb so much natural beauty all at once. The scale of the park is enormous. You look across the valley and see a mountainside covered in what looks like grass, but you discover it with redwood trees – the world’s tallest trees. This place made me feel so small and insignificant, while at the same time empowered and connected to its strength, permanence and natural beauty. It was once described as God’s Cathedral on Earth.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Well, I’m kind of new myself to Melbourne, so hopefully some friends will be taking me to attractions around and outside of town. I’ve never explored this part of the country – the Great Ocean Road and some of the beaches are on my list, as are some the good local wineries. As I’m learning there’s plenty to see and do in Melbourne, I can take my time, adjust to the local rhythm of living, and get settled.

What are you currently reading?
With this new job, mostly emails, reports, and the Sunday New York Times. They have a great arts section. But I’m going to have to find my most favourite Aussie newspaper now.

What are you currently listening to?
Piano music. Which is at work during ballet classes. I never really had a favourite band who I followed or obsessed over. Being the youngest of six, I very rarely was given a chance to ever play music of my choice in the house. Except for those few occasions, I’d lock myself in a room and play my very first cassette tape of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

I hadn’t yet seen the ballet, and I only had a vague version of the story, but I would create the entire production in my head as I spun and leaped across the room to my imaginary audience, dancing every role, and never stopping until I either knocked something over or there was a knock at the door.

Happiness is?
A question we should all ask ourselves. It’s as simple as that!

What does the future hold for you?
Has anyone ever actually answered that question? I have no idea. As long as there continues to be one there for me.

Damian has recently been appointed the new Artistic Director of the National Theatre Ballet School. For more information, visit: www.nationaltheatreballetschool.org.au for details.

Image: Damian Smith (supplied)