Dale Woodbridge-Brown is an outstanding circus performer and proud queer Aboriginal person. Being one of the few Indigenous circus performers in Australia, he continues to be an illustrious figure in the industry more than a decade on.
Speaking to Star Observer, Woodbridge-Brown details his unexpected journey of circus performing, and ultimately harnessing his “powerful” identity through his artistry.
Circus, A “Welcomed Surprise”
“I never thought that I would still be doing back flips at 34 years of age, in Circus companies and in places all over the world,” says Woodbridge-Brown.
Whilst growing up with an interest in performance and competing in state-level gymnastics, Woodbridge-Brown says circus was a “welcomed surprise” early in his life.
“I was a part of a youth Circus in Dubbo called Circus West… I loved learning the skills when I was younger, and we got to do some performances in and around Dubbo.”
Whilst being exposed to the circus industry, he initially decided to pursue dance as his “path within the performing arts.”
Studying at Brisbane’s Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts in 2012, he was approached by BLAKflip – a circus training program for First Nations performers. His decision to join swiftly shifted his career trajectory.
Being taught the physical aspects of circus performance, his perspective as a queer and Indigenous person was also given the opportunity to grow.
“Throughout my career I have had some incredible friends and mentors who have taught me skills along the way. They have given me great advice and guidance, but with the space for me to approach it how I would want to.”
“It has been tough, and I haven’t always made the right choice, but I have done it my way.”
“Being Aboriginal Within The Circus Realm Feels Right”
In 2017, Woodbridge-Brown joined the “super queer super camp” performance company, Briefs Factory International. The company has helped him platform his identity, through “navigating the queer space” and uplifting his Aboriginality.
“There are many queer people in the circus community but only a handful of Aboriginal performers. The company has shown me the love and beauty of [the] representation of queer faces and bodies on an international level,” he explains.
“Being Aboriginal within the circus realm feels right. The whole industry is about storytelling with every medium possible with a sassy lick of humour,” he continues.
Crediting his family for his comedic abilities, he says, “Storytelling is in our DNA, and we have such a unique brand of comedy that I don’t see anywhere else.”
“Combining my skills – the camp of my queerness with the strength of my Aboriginality, makes me feel powerful, grounded and unique.”
The Kamilaroi Cowboy
Since coming into his own on-stage, Woodbridge-Brown has taken on the persona of the Kamilaroi Cowboy.
Whilst saying the persona is just himself “but in cuter clothes,” the choice to take on this character has been a part of the “journey realising [his] authentic self.”
“Over time I saw the need for me to represent myself on stage because there is only one me, but I carry with me my people and the visibility of someone I wish I had when I was younger,” he explains.
“I’m not claiming to represent everyone, nor do I think anyone should, but if there are any queer Aboriginal people who do, that’s who I’m doing this for.”
Woodbridge-Brown hopes to encourage more Aboriginal people to see circus artistry as being a welcoming and viable aspiration.
As for what you can expect from his presence on stage, his large catalogue of skills has kept audiences on the edge of their seats.
Whether its lassos and whip tricks, acrobatics, or being an alluring yet hilarious host – Woodbridge-Brown’s talents are typically showcased through a “ridiculous mashup of stupid entertainment.”
“My favourite routine to perform is called ‘Batonya Harding’. It’s a clowning routine that has Shirley Temple and Nicki Minaj. I use balloons, tumbling, dance and baton twirling. It’s an act where I get to just be silly but also show quite a few skills in 4 minutes.”
Another favourite and riskier act of his, is sword swallowing. Since learning and performing it three years ago, he admits, “it’s terrifying and demands respect.”
“I love doing this on stage because I find it funny to gross people out while making them realise how incredible the human body can be.”
“Just A Boy From Mungindi”
Whether it’s physical comedy or his daring talents, his range as a performer has received international acclaim.
He has accumulated many career highlights; the “beautiful experience” of touring Arnhem Land, performing on Broadway in New York City with a raving New York Times Review, performing on West End in London, and creating his first solo-show “Camp Culture” during Sydney World Pride.
However, it was Brief’s performance during Courtney Act’s Christmas Extravaganza that has particularly stood out for Woodbridge-Brown.
During the aired TV special, he says, “Having my family send me a video of my dad yelling at the TV, “There he is,” was definitely a huge deal to me. My dad was my biggest fan.”
Continuing to tour, recently performing in Briefs Bite Club: Second Serve in Brisbane, Woodbridge-Brown is humble and proud of all his achievements.
“Not in a million years would I have thought back then that my career could have been this successful.”
“The fact that being just a boy from Mungindi… I have toured to some incredible places that I would never have dreamed of going, even when I was little,” he recalls.
“My career has become something that I treasure, it is such a huge part of my life and who I am.”
Woodbridge-Brown aims to continue pursuing his circus artistry, planning to bring back his solo-show “Camp Culture” very soon.