‘When did I become a Daddy?’: Indigenous dance maker Joel Bray on his latest show

‘When did I become a Daddy?’: Indigenous dance maker Joel Bray on his latest show
Image: Joel Bray in 'Daddy'. Image: James Henry.

Dance maker Joel Bray is gearing up to premiere his latest show ‘Daddy’ in Melbourne. Matthew Wade caught up with him to find out more.


When did you fall in love with dance?

I actually fell in love with dance when I first came out. I grew up in country New South Wales, moved to the city, and started dancing at the bars and clubs on Oxford Street. For me, dancing and my own personal sexual liberation are tied up in the same package.

What inspired you to create ‘Daddy’?

I am Aboriginal through my father, and he and I have been going through a journey of healing in our relationship recently. Through this I have been re-connecting with my culture, but also discovering the depths of trauma that colonisation has bestowed on my family. It has also made me realise that I have been looking for his replacement in the men I choose to have sex with: literally “searching for Daddy”. Oh, and somewhere along the line, I reached the age where boys would crack onto me with the line “I’m really into older men.” Hang on… when did I become a Daddy?

The show grapples with the issues faced by queer men navigating adulthood. What are you hoping to highlight through the show?

In all my work I strip myself bare, literally and metaphorically, and try to be as vulnerable with my audience as possible. Through this, I hope to give voice to those darkest anxieties and insecurities which lurk in our minds. We, as Queer men, have to grapple with deep-seated self-hatred and social insecurities planted in us at a young age. What I hope to do in ‘Daddy’ is say those fears out loud. And maybe, just maybe, other Queer men will hear them and we can all realise that we are not alone, that actually we can let down our facades of bravado and speak honestly with each other.

Through your work you also explore the lasting effects of colonisation. Why is it important for LGBTI people that aren’t Indigenous to understand these effects as well?

I can paint a direct line of dispossession and trauma from the moment Cook planted the Union Jack, down through my grandfathers and father.

What are you most looking forward to about premiering ‘Daddy’ in Melbourne?

The show is going to be fun! Yes I’m dealing with some tough stuff, but it’s going to be a party. Lots of audience interaction in which we get to be silly and play together. I can’t wait!

What advice would you give young Indigenous LGBTI people?

Being an Indigenous LGBTI person often means you don’t feel welcome in either community. The best advice I can give is, find other Queer Blackfellas and hang out with them! There is an incredible Indigenous Queer people, a community of talented, fierce and welcoming people who I lean on for support all the time. Find us and you’ll feel at home!

‘Daddy’ will run from May 8 – 12 at the Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall. For more information or to buy tickets, visit: artshouse.com.au

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