Damian Smith: Leading Man

Toronto-raised Damian Smith was bullied as a teenager for being a ballet dancer, yet he triumphed and recently came home to bid farewell to his globally acclaimed career on the stage that launched it.

In 1989, Damian Smith, then a 16-year-old Indigenous kid from Toronto, Lake Macquarie, appeared in ‘Death in Venice’ at the Sydney Opera House – where at such a young age he performed in awe of the shadow of the national iconic sails.

Shortly afterwards, Damian left Australia for the United States, joined the San Francisco Ballet and rose quickly through the ranks to become one of the mainstage company’s most beloved stars. He emerged as one of the most popular and versatile dancers in a company highly sought by choreographers and principal ballerinas as their partners.

After retiring from the company last year, Damien, now based permanently in San Francisco, recently returned to Australia for one season only, as a guest artist in the Australian Ballet’s latest production, Symphony in C, performed at Sydney Opera House.

On 14th May, 2016, the now 43-year-old performed his last-ever pas de duex, in the venue that commenced his international ballet career nearly three decades ago. Damian’s swansong, partnering ballerina Robyn Hendricks, was a contemporary pas de deux favourite entitled “After the Rain”, created by Christopher Wheeldon in 2005 to Arvo Pärt’s score “Spiegel in Spiegel”. It was, he admits, a “nice easy” pas de deux to perform at his age, which is considered advanced for ballet dancers…

Story Marilyn Collins. Damian Smith in Tomasson’s Giselle. Photograph by Erik Tomasson.