Tama Barry is a principal dancer for the Scottish Ballet. His parents Colin and Lin Barry reside in Armidale, and they are very pleased to announce that Tama is coming home to host some exciting workshops with local dance teacher Collette Brazier.
How long have you and your family lived in Armidale?
We arrived in Armidale in July 1999, so nearly 11 years.
Tell us about your children …
We have a daughter and grandchildren in Cairns, a son and grandchildren on the Gold Coast, a son in Griffith, a son here in Armidale, a son in London, a daughter who graduated from UNE with a BA (Languages) and is currently studying externally at UNE for a Masters in Linguistics while living and working in South Korea, and, of course, a son in Glasgow.
When did you first discover Tama’s dancing skills?
Tama was born in New Zealand, and the family moved to Papua New Guinea when he was 2. He first discovered dance, jazz and tap, at the Dance school in Port Moresby, when he was 6. At the end of that year the dance teacher left PNG, and the next teacher taught ballet.
So at 7 Tama found ballet. He danced grades 3 and 4 together in one year, and skipped grade 5. At an early age, his talent was showing. The ballet school in Port Moresby was an almost exclusively female environment, which made it difficult for Tama to develop as a male dancer.
Each year the dance school brought examiners from Australia for the Royal Academy of Dance examinations and, one year, the Australian examiner was a man, Martin Rubenstein, a famous dancer of his time. Mr. Rubenstein insisted he give Tama a private lesson. This was a turning point in Tama’s career, as up until then he had never seen a male dancer – let alone had a lesson from one!
When you are in a small dance school, and you are the only boy, you get away with just being a boy. Martin Rubenstein gave Tama a sense of masculinity and also impressed upon Tama the need to be disciplined and work hard if your ambition is to have a career in ballet.
At 10, Prudence Bowen of Ecole Classique in Sydney, who had been Tama’s examiner when he was 8, contacted us with the offer of a full scholarship to Ecole Classique.
While we accepted this wonderful offer, we held it off until Tama was 14, as neither Tama nor we wished to be separated that early in his life.
How did Tama qualify into The Australian ballet School?
The Australian Ballet School auditions country wide each year, and in 1994 Tama auditioned successfully. Fortunately, the Ballet School also offered him a full scholarship, and in 1995 Tama started his second level of training.
At the end of his second year, Tama became very disengaged with his choice of career and wanted to quit. Fortunately we managed to dissuade him from this course of action and, as Tama will say, “If Mum and Dad had not dissuaded me, I would not be the success I am today”.
Tama graduated from the Australian Ballet School in 1998 with his Advanced Diploma of Dance.
When did Tama join the Queensland Ballet, and what were some of his major roles?
Tama auditioned for the Queensland Ballet in 1998, and joined the Company in 1999.
Some of the roles he has danced with Queensland Ballet are the Prince in The Little Mermaid, Lysander in Midsummer Night’s Dream and Peter in Cloudland; along with principal roles in all major ballet classics as well as numerous short works.
He was promoted to soloist in 2003.
When did he leave for Scotland, and why?
Jumping into the abyss in 2007, Tama challenged himself against the world stage to see if he could make it overseas.
He auditioned all over Europe and was offered several positions in various countries. However, after initially being told there were no vacancies at the Scottish Ballet, over their winter season a principal and a soloist left, thus opening up a position for him to pursue.
After auditioning, he was offered a contract as a soloist, which just goes to show it is not always how good you are, but being in the right place at the right time.
After dancing with the Scottish Ballet for two years, Tama was promoted to principal in 2009. The first person he told was his mum!
How often do you get to see Tama these days?
Tama has settled nicely into life in Glasgow, with partner and his two cats.
In 2008 we visited him as part of a visit to other family in England.
In 2009 we went over to Glasgow for their Civil Partnership ceremony, and last Christmas we went over to see him dance the Prince in Cinderella (several times!).
Tama is currently working on the world premiere of Ashley Paige’s Alice in Wonderland, in which he is creating the role of the Mad Hatter.
We hear that Tama is coming home to share his skills?
Yes, he is coming to Armidale for a visit. Anyone interested in dance can go along to meet Tama. He is hosting some workshops. Dancers can participate from as young as 7 years to adults.
Workshops will be run in three sessions: Juniors 7 to 10 years, Intermediate 11 to 14 years and Senior 15 years to adults. Workshops will start Monday 12 June and finish on Saturday 18 June, with a parent and friends viewing. Venue to be finalised closer to date.
For further information, contact Colette Brazier Australian Dance Enterprises 6775 8371 / 0402 616 984.
To find out what Tama is up to, you can join his Facebook page.
Thank you Colin and Lin.