His name is pronounced thigh day, at least on the mainland. Back in the Torres Strait Islands, it’s something like tuddy, but Patrick’s giggle suggests I stick to the white pronunciation.

Thaiday is shy, pleasant, modest and obviously talented. He joined Bangarra last year fresh out of dancing training, starring in their hugely successful production Walkabout. Born in Biloela, the 33-year-old’s parents hail from Iamu and Erub in the Torres Strait Islands. His parents immersed him in the language and dance of the culture, a world he’s now enthusiastic about embracing.

As I grew up, probably the beginning of high school, I sort of lost interest in it, in the culture. It’s a shame to say that,

Thaiday said. I had other things that I was exposed to, all sorts of music and dance. Now I just have a much greater appreciation for my culture and my background, thanks to my family, my Mum and Dad and aunties and uncles, that have passed on their culture from generation to generation.

It was Thaiday’s family who encouraged him to pursue a career in dance, resulting in Thaiday studying at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association, then dancing at the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies. While completing six weeks’ training with Leigh Warren and dancers in Adelaide, Thaiday got the phone call to apply for Bangarra’s Walkabout, and is now fulltime with the company.

For me I guess it was really nerve-racking, because it was my first show with Bangarra and in a professional company, Thaiday said. It’s very different. You’re working constantly from 10 until 6 at night, doing classes, [and] you’re rehearsing so you’re constantly on your feet -¦ You’ve got to have your bearings about you.

It’s really good too, because the classes they have here are probably the best teachers they have in Australia. I’ve really improved in my technique.

The results have met with familial approval. Thaiday tells me his Mum has already seen the Brisbane and Melbourne legs of the tour, and will visit Sydney next week for the NSW opening.

There’s pride too in the fact Thaiday is the face of the show, at least according to posters hung all over town featuring Thaiday shirtless and intense. It’s an image far removed from the slightly awkward new professional before me, clearly loving his new life.

I feel very much at home here because we’re just exposed to our own culture here, Thaiday said. Stephen helps bring across to the audience both sides: indigenous culture and Torres Strait Islander culture -“ he manages to bring the two together.

Bush runs from 23 to 26 July at the Theatre Royal. Bookings can be made at 9266 4800 or at www.ticketek.com.au.

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