CENTRE STAGE: Travis performs front-and-centre with Sydney's Bangarra Dance Theatre company.
CENTRE STAGE: Travis performs front-and-centre with Sydney's Bangarra Dance Theatre company. Contributed

A bit of everything arty

TRAVIS De Vries says he left Stanthorpe to "run away and join the circus", but you don't get an office at the Sydney Opera House by just clowning around.

Travis left his family's Ballandean property to spend four years training at the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association on the New South Wales central coast, where he honed the performance skills that would take him around the world.

"When I graduated, my training paid off and I was offered a contract with Bangarra Dance Theatre in Sydney," Travis said.

"With Bangarra, I travelled all over Australia and on a couple international tours to New York and Mongolia.

"I've been blessed to meet and work with some amazingly talented people in such a short time.

"It's kind of overwhelming sometimes."

Travis has now taken up residence at one of Australia's most iconic venues, where a typical work day is far from your average 9-to-5 job.

"I now work for the Sydney Opera House, as well as running my own arts business in Sydney," he said.

"My average day is some training and an early breakfast, travel to work by bicycle through Sydney's parks, be in the Opera House around 9.30am working with producers and artists.

"Then if I'm lucky I'll see a show after work or go home and paint or make some music."

No two nights are the same for the young artist, who finds himself involved in vast and varied projects.

"The diversity of what I do means I'm never bored," Travis said. "I have seen so much and had so many adventures.

"A few nights ago I was the photographer for an upcoming Sydney band called Lepers and Crooks.

"I seem to do a bit of everything. It can get a bit schizophrenic sometimes.

"I never turn off."

While Travis is more than comfortable in the bright lights of Sydney, he still holds his bush connections dear to his heart.

"Life has really taken me somewhere I could never have imagined when I was growing up in Stanthorpe," he said.

"But it's always going to be the place that raised me and helped make me strong in my culture and as a person. That's a pretty special thing."

Travis' indigenous heritage has been a driving force in his career from the start.

"It's my understanding the Gamilaroi (my indigenous nation) lands almost extended to Stanthorpe," he said.

"Traditionally it was the area where a few clans connected, so it would have been like a meeting place for a couple of different clans.

"Growing up around Ballandean I met some really great characters that I still have strong community ties to.

"It's that strong community out in the bush that I really enjoyed."

While touring with Bangarra, Travis found it hard to return home for more than a few weeks a year.

Now he tries to make it back more regularly, recently returning to host a series of indigenous dance workshops.

Travis said he hopes to find his way back to the bush eventually.

"There are so many things about Stanthorpe I love and cherish," he said.

"When I was back over the summer I did a couple weeks of work as a field hand in one of the vineyards near Ballandean.

"The country air, sunlight and doing a day of hard work and ending it with a beer at the Ballandean Tavern makes me realise how lucky I was to grow up around the area and still have a connection there.

"I think I'll probably end up back there or somewhere like it."

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