• Stephen Page is introduced to David Bowie by Joelene King in 1983. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Bangarra’s Artistic Director, Stephen Page recalls the moment when he rubbed shoulders with a musical genius.
Tara Callinan

12 Jan 2016 - 3:23 PM  UPDATED 14 Jan 2016 - 10:57 AM

Stephen Page auditioned for a role in the ‘Lets Dance’ film clip during David Bowie’s 1983 tour of Australia.

Bowie held a casting call at the NAISDA Dance College and formed an instant fascination with Indigenous Australians - particularly Joelene King and Terry Roberts.


The two dancers were selected to feature in his music clip, which is now regarded as one of the most influential of its era.

Joelene King  got tickets to his concert and we all went along. That’s when Joeline introduced him to me,” said Mr Page.


He found this photo when cleaning out his office on Monday afternoon just after news broke that the music legend had died after an 18-month battle with cancer, aged 69.

“At that time he was fascinated by Indigenous people and culture.”

“He inspired me to enter the world of pop culture and use mediums such as video.”

Page says his ‘Let’s Dance’ clip inspired an early generation of Indigenous filmmakers and artists.

“For someone of his calibre to come out here and bring these Indigenous issues to the forefront, you have to admire that.”

David Bowie – an Englishman from London – was the first musician to put Aboriginal issues on a global stage and ‘Let’s Dance’ soon became the two words that would change global attitudes towards Indigenous Australians.

He single-handedly shone a light on the racism and disadvantage experienced by First Nations Peoples during the 1980’s.

“As much as I love this country,” he told Rolling Stone Magazine in 1983, “it’s probably one of the most racially intolerant in the world, well in line with South Africa. I mean, in the north, there’s unbelievable intolerance.”

“The Aborigines can’t even buy their drinks in the same bars-they have to go round the back and get them through what’s called a ‘dog hatch'."

Ironically, Bowie shot his iconic film clip in the local Carinda pub in far north NSW, at a time when black and white couldn’t even share a beer together.

Terry Roberts – who is now deceased - and a 22-year-old Joelene King explored themes of racism and assimilation in the music clip.

The red shoes, the main symbol which represents oppression inflicted upon native people by white capitalists, are central to the video.

Joelene King refuses to 'put on her red shoes' and accept the ‘white way of life’ at the end of the shot.

‘Let’s Dance’ was released three years before Aboriginal rock band Yothu Yindi formed in 1986.