BRETT Morgan's first thought when he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia was how much he owed his international dance career to his parents, Betty, 93, and Charlie, 92.
"When I was a baby I was normally quite docile, but as soon as the music came on Dad said I literally jumped out of my cot and I couldn't stop dancing," Mr Morgan said. He tap danced until the age of 10, then moved to ballet.
"Mum used to pick me up from school and take me all the way from Fairfield to Central at least three times a week and I did that from when I was in year five to year ten," he said. "What they did for me when I was younger was unbelievable with travel, they put their lives on hold for me to do this."
Merewether Heights' Mr Morgan said he was "humbled" by the honour, which is another milestone in a career that has included principal and soloist roles and teaching, taken him all over the world and earned him a Centenary Medal in 2003 for service to society and dance.
"I am so lucky and fortunate," he said.
"I don't regret a day. The thing I loved doing most was completely being myself on stage. Performing to me was like a drug and I loved every opportunity I got to perform... hopefully I left a little mark on the people who saw me."
Mr Morgan studied at the Saill Academy of Dancing and then spent six "incredible, wonderful" years from 1984 at the Australian Ballet Company. He met Queen Elizabeth II after performing in Sleeping Beauty in Covent Garden in 1988. Mr Morgan moved to Sydney Dance Company as a dancer in 1991 and would spend the next 17 years in a variety of roles, even giving ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov a warm up class in Sydney in 1996.
Touring internationally he would make time to visit universities and provide masterclasses. He spent 2009 and half of 2010 as an artistic consultant and guest teacher, visiting NSW and Victorian studios sharing his expertise. Mr Morgan joined the National College of Dance at Lambton [formerly the Marie Walton-Mahon Dance Academy] as an artistic consultant in 2010 and has been its owner since 2013, working with pre-professional dancers. It's been a springboard to professional careers for many students now in schools and companies in Asia, Europe and the US.
"I want them to release their passion," he said.
"I look for kids - and there's heaps of them - that have this incredible unique expression. I love people that come in and have their own individuality and I want to have a school that harnesses that, I don't want to have a school of dancers that have to fit into a mould. The thing I try to instill in them is to be able to adapt. We're fortunate here because we've got half a dozen styles of choreography that they get used to... their technique is good but the reason they stand out is their ability to be able to pick up choreography. I feel that's my purpose, to give them what I had and all the nuts and bolts... to be ready to take on the world."
He said he will launch a youth company this year and wants Newcastle to become a hub where students from regional NSW can audition for directors from major schools.
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