“As a kid I really wanted to be a pro wrestler for WWE, or a back up dancer for Beyonce.”
There were a lot of detours on the way to his current career. “My mum is a visual artist, I used to want to paint and make designs for jewellery but I really don’t have that kind of talent. I tried being a chef and a baker because I’m a foodie, then washing cars, mowing lawns, working in a hardware store, butcher, as a cruise attendant, and then working on Indigenous radio in Cairns.”
Tyrel’s involvement with dance came from a chance decision. When visiting a careers fair as a rep from his radio station, “I had to interview different stalls from the navy, TAFE, and then I saw ACPA (Indigenous Centre for Performing Arts). I put my name down for the Navy because at the time I just wanted to get out of Cairns and explore. But I got a call back from ACPA, so I auditioned and started studying there when I was 17.”
“Bangarra was always in the back of my head, I didn’t know if I could make it there but I could try.”
He landed a job at Bangarra after years of fostering a relationship with the company. “I had to show over a long period of time that I wanted the opportunity to dance with them.”
Now in his second year with Bangarra, he says the most rewarding part has been travel. “I’m seeing the world and meeting all these people who I used to watch on YouTube or TV, and being exposed to things that used to be a dream. When I met Jessica Mauboy I remembered how I used to sit in my room and watch her on Idol and spend all my credit voting for her.”
“Anything really is possible. It’s a cliché, but if you work for it, it happens. I always thought about going to the US and I went there last year, I used to dream about the Moulin Rouge and then there I was, walking down the Champs-Élysées.”
Of course, the hardest part of the job is being away from his big family – his dad is one of five and his mum is one of 15. “You miss out on so much. As I grow up I’m understanding how my parents were when they were younger.”
It’s also required heaps of discipline to reach his dreams. “You can’t just go out for a drink in the middle of the week. That one sleepless night turns everything upside down if you get an injury because you’re tired. You need to prepare yourself to work really hard, whatever you want to be: artist, cook, builder.”
As well as aspirations for his career, he has hopes for his country.
“I hope for Australia to have more empathy, sympathy, respect, and to treat everyone as human beings. We’re not all going to have kids or a family to support us so you need to be there for one another. We need to not be so selfish and remember that there’s more generations to come. Australia needs to wake up.”
Tyrel will be performing in Bangarra’s Bennelong, touring to Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne from June 29 – September 7.
Tickets available via bangarra.com.au.