Interview by Madeleine Dore
Photography by Matthew Henry
“When you are open, the world opens up to you,” says dancer Luke Currie-Richardson.
Amongst the performer’s jovial descriptions of his two breakfasts and five a.m. visits to the gym is a deep contemplation and reflection on the purpose of his everyday life.
It’s a wisdom he says is inspired and informed by his current role models, family and ancestors. Luke is a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji and Djabugay peoples, the Munaldjali Clan of South East QLD and the Meriam people of the Eastern Torres Strait Islands.
His younger years were spent as a basketball player representing ACT at a national level. One of his best friends went on to compete for Australia at the Olympics and he was inspired to emulate such success.
Where others may let someone else’s achievements stifle them, Luke saw a new opportunity and was spurred on to give dancing his all.
“I wanted to create my own path and I found a love for performing.”
It’s an important lesson that demonstrates how we should seek inspiration from other people's career trajectories, rather than take it as evidence of our own short comings or let it lead us down a road of self-destruction.
“I saw my close friends and cousins representing their country, their culture and inspiring young Indigenous kids. I always wanted to do that and play my part in helping our culture survive.”
When he first turned to dance, it was his goal to perform with the iconic Bangarra Dance Theatre. “I have a set of goals written down and I try to stick by them and build them into my routine.”
Since joining Bangarra in 2012, the working year is typically divided with six months spent creating new work in Sydney with the company, and the remainder touring a production locally and internationally.
While his years may be scattered, Luke has built structure into his day to day life that sees him rising early to avoid the need to rush – a reminder to find enjoyment as our days begin. Most of all, through revealing his routine, Luke teaches us to create an openness and reconsider the meaning of our daily lives.
"For me it was always about culture,” says Luke. “I don’t live life for myself, I don’t dance for myself, and I wouldn't be where I am if I did it all for myself.”
On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I wake up at four in the morning, have my supplement shake, do my morning preps and get to the gym at 4:40a.m. On Tuesday and Thursday, I’m up at five to do a six o’clock yoga class.
I was in hospital for about two days last year and was out of action for about a week – the most amount of time I haven't been physical – and that was rough. I wasn’t on my deathbed or anything, but I was the youngest person in there and seeing people who didn’t have the same blessings as I do really opened up my eyes in terms of not taking life for granted.
Since then I've knuckled down a lot more and gone that extra mile. I love that physical push and trying to get the most out of my body in the 24 hours I've got in a day.
“Seeing people who didn’t have the same blessings as I do really opened up my eyes in terms of not taking life for granted.”
After the gym I will come back home and have my first breakfast, as silly as that sounds! I will have 8-9 Weet-Bix with banana, blueberries, strawberries, honey, chia seeds, coconut and soy milk. That is my jam at the moment – I’m definitely a Weet-Bix kid.
I learnt from a young age that what I put in my body is what I am going to get out of it, so that is why I will have a huge breakfast because I’ve already done what most people do physically in one day before six a.m.
Then I will relax a bit and try and watch the 6.30 news. I flick through channels and see if there is anything different or if they are telling the truth!
After that’s done I will have a shower and freshen up and cook my second breakfast, which is a three-egg omelette with spinach and covered in chilli flakes. Again, I will watch the news. I find a lot of it to be very depressing, apart from the feel-good segment at the end. But it puts your life into perspective – you get to wake up another day in one of the best countries in the world and so it makes you a little bit more grateful.
Waking up so early gives me time to chill out rather than waking up at the latest possible moment and rushing. It settles me a bit and I can just take it all in and enjoy myself. I’ll collect my thoughts, look at my schedule to see what we have on for the day and gauge how much energy I’m going to need.
"Waking up so early gives me time to chill out rather than waking up at the latest possible moment and rushing. It settles me a bit and I can just take it all in and enjoy myself."
I pack my bags and walk to work irrespective of whether it is raining or not. My partner thinks I’m crazy.
I live by a saying from my old basketball coach who said if you are on time, you are late. I can't be on time – we start at nine-thirty, but I’m at work by eight-thirty. I’m the least flexible person in the company, I think anyway, so I’ll do a little bit of yoga stretching and sit ups and little maintenance things so I can get warm before the warm up class! [Laughs]
The warm up class begins and the first thirty minutes is dedicated to yoga or pilates, and the latter hour to contemporary dance or ballet.
During the first half hour break of the day I have my morning tea and a bowl of porridge with honey and a handful of almonds.
We have our first rehearsal and it’s the period where we are either creating a new work, or we are rehearsing a new piece to remount to take on a regional tour or an overseas tour.
Lunch varies but the most consistent is tuna, brown rice, corn, sprouts and avocado with a bit of soy sauce.
Two till six is the big rehearsal with a fifteen-minute break in the middle where I will eat a banana or have a muesli bar.
If it’s still light outside I will probably walk through the Botanical Gardens in Sydney on the way home. If it’s miserable weather I can catch the bus home. It's very rare that I miss the gym in the morning, but if I do I will go in the evening.
I love to go home. My partner recently went and stayed with a professional chef when she was dancing in Melbourne and she has been inspired, so now I’m lucky enough to come home to some kind of amazing meal. We have this deal where I buy the groceries and she preps, so I think it works out amazingly for both of us.
We will sit down and talk about our days – we are both interested in each other's practice and art.
After dinner we will probably just watch Netflix and I will try and stretch out with a foam roller and get my body ready for the next day.
We live around the corner from Gelato Messina and sometimes have a sneaky little visit. I’m not very good with portions, so I usually just buy one kiddy scoop because if I take home the half litre that will be gone in the night!
I usually have a really, really, really hot shower. I’ve only just found out it is bad for you because it dries out your skin, but for me it is amazing. I just need that steam and that heat to release my muscles.
I am pretty much spent by ten o'clock at night, if it’s after I am a zombie! I'm one of those people who is pretty much out within a couple of minutes of hitting the bed, which is tough because for some reason my partner finds all the good topics to talk about just as I’m trying to get to sleep. It’s one of those things that it is annoying, but I can't live without it! When I’m on tour I miss it.
Nothing really changes for me when I am on tour. My first year with the company was crazy because we flew all over Australia as well as to places like Mongolia, but then you get into your own routine away from home. Whatever city I’m in I find a gym and still eat my tuna and rice.
The major difference is that our days don't usually start till three or five in the afternoon, and we might finish around eleven in the evening and you are quite wired till late. My body clock still wakes me up early, and that’s the hardest thing about tour that kind of wrecks me.
Usually I have one day of the weekend where I’m not physically working out – no gym, no yoga, no dancing or anything like that. Then on the Sunday I will be back in the gym.
I am a bit of a hermit crab and all the free time I have I spend with my partner. She is my best friend and we will go to the movies and things like that.
I will definitely eat crap on the weekends – I think I deserve it! When my partner isn’t around I manage to eat two pizzas to myself. Not even two good pizzas – two Pizza Hut pizzas! [Laughs]
Then I will probably eat the burgers on the Saturday. Another reason for working out during the week is so I can treat myself. I don’t like using the word treat because I’m a human, not a dog, but it's just food, you know? Our mentality towards food and fitness today is a draining battle, especially in the dance world. I work out mostly because it is where I can be me and be in the zone. For others, it might be meditating or reading a book.
“What makes life extraordinary for me is that I don’t live life for myself, I don’t dance for myself, and I wouldn't be where I am if I did it all for myself. I have a drive to represent my culture no matter what form and I wanted to do my part to break all the prevailing stereotypes surrounding Indigenous culture."
– Luke Currie-Richardson