Dancer almost quit after bullying
HEATH KEATING’S love of dancing is making him famous, but seven years ago that same passion made him a target for bullies at Mullumbimby High School.
The star from Ten’s hit So You Think You Can Dance series yesterday spoke out publicly for the first time about the bullying and teasing he faced at the school, and how it almost made him give up dancing altogether.
“Going to high school absolutely sucked for me,” Keating, 22, said. “People couldn’t get past the fact that I was a male and danced.”
Keating said he had fond memories of the broader Mullumbimby community and most people were supportive of his passion.
Likewise, his time at Upper Main Arm Public School – his family lived at Durrumbul – had been happy, but things soured when he hit Grade 7.
“As soon as I went to high school I just wasn’t accepted at all,” he said.
“Mullumbimby’s great, but the bad thing is the high school is a bit rough. It got to the point where I’d tell people I wasn’t dancing any more.
“I’m so glad I did stick to dancing. There were so many times I’d think ‘is it worth it? I won’t get a career out of it and I’m getting nothing but grief for it’.”
Keating said the teasing and bullying never got physical –‘there were a few incidents, but I’d just avoid those situations’.
In the end, the question of whether he would continue dancing was resolved by his mother while he was in Grade 9. She moved the family to the Gold Coast and put her talented son into a school with its own performing arts program.
“There were more people like me and I was more accepted, even though it was a sports school,” he said.
“Initially I didn’t want to do dance at high school (on the Gold Coast), but I did and I liked school better as a result and I got to dance every day.”
Keating stressed his experience at Mullumbimby High School did not dominate his memories of the town.
However, he also conceded his trip to Mullum with a film crew to shoot part of his So You Think You Can Dance biography was his first in seven years and was done with mixed feelings.
“I’ve always loved Mullum, but it was a place I was not thrilled to go back to,” he said.
Ironically, that difficult experience ultimately made him a better dancer.
“I think, even though it sucked at the time, it made me a lot stronger,” he said.
“I had to grow a thicker skin.”