The Wauchope boy who was once called “the shadow” because of his painful shyness, will dance onto the Glasshouse stage in Port Macquarie on June 9 as the passionate Don Jose in Melbourne City Ballet’s Carmen.
It is the colourful and tragic story of the Spanish gypsy Carmen, who seduces and then spurns the naïve Don José, played by Brendan Bradshaw, causing him to attack his superior officer, desert his military duties and abandon his childhood sweetheart, before resorting to murder in a jealous rage.
The production, which has received rave reviews for both the technical prowess of its dancers and its imaginative reinterpretation, is part of the Hastings’ Hello Koalas Festival from June 7-11.
Local artist and dance teacher of over 30 years, Francessca O’Donnell, who lives in Beechwood and works with Port Macquarie Performing Arts, is extremely proud of what her former student, Brendan, who started with her at just age five, has achieved since leaving to follow a dance career at 16.
“The reality is that the kids who make it, it’s about their passion and dedication,” Francessca said.
“It’s not an easy job to do – physically and mentally it’s hard – and it makes me very proud that he’s persevered and is living his dream; that’s very special.”
She’s also delighted that the production is coming to Port Macquarie, thankful to “the pioneers” who fought for the need for a facility like Glasshouse which allows this calibre of performance to be enjoyed locally.
“Because that’s how kids get inspired and understand ballet, by seeing it performed like this, and to have the opportunity to see it here on their doorstep is both wonderful and essential.”
Brendan, now 34, agreed it was “very nice going to work and doing something you love every day”, and remembers with great fondness the caring environment, the “safe place” in which he first learned to dance.
What he loves is “the freedom of being able to let yourself go and become a character”.
He is still shy, but said that with the lights on, the audience becomes almost black from the stage, allowing him, as the old saying goes, to “dance like no-one is watching”.
And yet, at the same time, one of his greatest rewards, he said, is that people can come to the show and be immersed in the story being told, and escape their own life and worries for a while.
He said being able to dance Carmen in his home town was particularly special, knowing that his family and friends would be able to see him dance again.
“And Glasshouse is such an amazing venue,” he said.
“We go to a lot of places around Australia … and it’s really nice to see people’s reactions, the awe when they see the Glasshouse; it makes me feel extremely proud.”
And for all those aspiring dancers, Brendan’s message is “if it’s something you love doing, keep working hard and keep going”.
“I felt like I was a late bloomer in ballet because it wasn’t until just before I left that I started getting prizes in competitions,” he said, recalling one competition when he was 10 in which he was the only person in the section not to get an award of some description.
“There are always people who will tell you you’re not good enough and try to cut you down, but if you really want it, you can make it happen,” he said.
Margret Meagher, director of the Hello Koalas Festival, was delighted to discover the links between Francessca and Brendan.
“At times, It seems that all roads lead to Port Macquarie-Hastings. And we are really proud to include Melbourne City Ballet’s production of ‘Carmen’ under our Hello Koalas Festival umbrella. Lady Lola, our Dancing Koala is also very excited about seeing her very first professional dance performance at the Glasshouse.”
Carmen is at Glasshouse Port Macquarie on Saturday, June 9. Tickets at the Glasshouse.
For the full Hello Koalas Festival program, CLICK HERE.