Growing up in north Queensland, Sani Townson was desperate to try out for dance school so he could perform at the Sydney Olympics.
"I filled out the application and I sneakily sent it down to Sydney, and turned up for the audition on the sly," he told AAP.
In his late teens, the Torres Strait Islander made it to the harbour city and back without getting caught by his parents, but was finally sprung weeks later when they found his acceptance letter in the mailbox.
His training at NAISDA Dance College, north of Sydney, saw him perform at the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies in front of a stadium crowd of 110,000 and millions more around the world.
Townson's interest in dance began when Aboriginal Dance Theatre visited Townsville while he was still at high school, and he's since come full circle, inspiring the next generation of teenage dancers as the youth programs coordinator at Bangarra Dance Theatre.
At the world-renowned company of professional Indigenous performers, Townson is choreographing a new work titled Kulka, meaning blood, which explores how totems and bloodlines are handed down.
His people are from Saibai Island in the western Torres Strait, and their family totems are Dhoeybaw, the yam vine, Samu, the cassowary, and Koedal, the crocodile.
"My grandfather has said to me that this is who we are, it's how our songs and our dances and our totems come to us," Townson said.
Kulka is part of four new works from Bangarra as part of a show titled Dance Clan, which is designed to foster up-and-coming choreographers.
Townson is working with some of his former students in his piece, and said there's beauty in seeing them flourish into professional performers.
"I get amazed by it, you know, because this is black fella talent," he said.
The choreographer has just finished working on the 2022 Schools Spectacular, creating a dance with 180 students, and said the teenagers were capable of much more than they expected.
"It makes me push them with all the shapes that I have in my head and the ideas that I have, and they push me so it's a really reciprocal thing."
Dance Clan runs at the Studio Theatre at Bangarra in Sydney from February 3 to 18.