Dunsborough's real life Billy Elliott

Eighty-year old dancer Seamus Hughes has created a special performance for Dunsborough dancers that will showcase classical ballet, Spanish dance, and contemporary expressions from Caroline Jensen, Danielle Phipps, Lynn Boon and Mr Hughes..
Eighty-year old dancer Seamus Hughes has created a special performance for Dunsborough dancers that will showcase classical ballet, Spanish dance, and contemporary expressions from Caroline Jensen, Danielle Phipps, Lynn Boon and Mr Hughes..

Eighty-year old Dunsborough dancer Seamus Hughes is a real life Billy Elliott, growing up in the hard knock streets of Dublin he discovered ballet in his teens and never looked back.

He came from a poor Irish family with 11 children, they had no books in their home and did not experience any culture whatsoever.

"I had a friend who was a musician and his sister was a dancer, he said to me one day that I should go and see the performance of his sister," he said.

"I was an apprentice printer at the time, I was 15 years old, I went in my printing overalls and put my Sunday jacket on top.

"I walked into the music of Tchaikovsky, the beautiful girls and perfumes. I was completely over awed and although I was the most unlikely person do it I thought, this is what I am going to do."

Mr Hughes said the experience awakened the unconscious artist within him.

"In that moment I was ready for the epiphany," he said.

Mr Hughes fell in love with dancing and would dance every minute he could find. At 19 years old he received a scholarship to study at the English National Ballet in London in the 1960's.

Here I was dancing with the guys I had looked up to so much, the whole thing was like this dream.

Seamus Hughes

"It wasn't a matter of what my family thought, I had broken away from them, my father was an alcoholic and abuser I never had any time for him," he said.

"It was never a matter of asking permission I just packed up and left in the middle of the night. You could not discuss it with anyone they would never have understood."

Mr Hughes said life in London was incredible.

"I was just a Green Paddy from the fields, I did not know anything," he said.

"It was the 1960's there were The Beatles and Carnaby Street but I wasn't so aware of it because I was so driven.

"At 19 I had to retrain, while I was a good dancer I had no technique.

"When I got to London I was in class at a very special school with kids who had been dancing since they were 10 years old and were far better than me.

"It did not stop me from learning and wanting to do it. In one way it was hard but I knew I could never go back, and I really got involved in the world of art."

Not quite good enough for the London stage, Mr Hughes travelled to Germany to work as a ballet dancer where he managed to get into some European companies.

"When I look back now I can't quite believe how I did it, the dedication, I was completely driven nothing was going to stop me," he said.

Mr Hughes eventually got a contract with Zurich Ballet, one of the biggest ballet companies in Europe and included many of the dancers from London at the time.

"Here I was dancing with the guys I had looked up to so much, the whole thing was like this dream," he said.

Seamus Hughes. Image supplied.

Seamus Hughes. Image supplied.

After his body started to give in from the physical demands of ballet, Mr Hughes began contemporary dance where he could work in with yoga and tai chi to get a different sort of movement.

He returned to London to study contemporary dance then joined a contemporary company in Europe, where he did his first choreography. He eventually made his way to Sydney, and was invited to join the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts with his ex-wife when the school first started.

"I then found my own company with the dancers who could not make it or did not fit the mould of a dancer but wanted to perform, we were very successful for about 10 years," he said.

"We could not afford theatres so we would do performances in places like Fremantle Prison and Custom House, it was just great," he said

Mr Hughes eventually returned to Europe after living in Bali where he met a German woman, and would return to WA each year to visit his children.

They relocated to WA when he worked as a mentor for a former student who was creating a performance for the Perth Arts Festival.

"This brought me back and we came down to Dunsborough because we loved it so much," he said.

Mr Hughes has now choreographed Dance of Life, especially created to celebrate the joy of dance for all ages featuring local dance professionals.

The performance has been created specifically for each dancer and will showcase classical ballet, Spanish dance, and contemporary expressions from Caroline Jensen, Danielle Phipps, Lynn Boon and Mr Hughes.

There will be two performances at the Old Dunsborough Hall, 44 Gifford Road Dunsborough, at 7pm on October 23 and 4pm on October 24, 2021.

Tickets cost $25 for adults and $10 for children and can be purchased via Trybooking - www.trybooking.com/BUCLO