NAISDA graduate Kyle Shilling leaps to new heights - 29.08.18

2014 NAISDA graduate, Kyle Shilling, is an unstoppable triple threat, with a successful and varied career spanning the realms of acting, dance and music.

Just when you think there’s nothing left for him to master, Kyle’s most recent project will see him take on the world of physical theatre, where he will be grappling the difficult topic of Indigenous suicide as a lead in the Legs on the Wall production The Man with the Iron Neck.

We caught up with Kyle to find out what he’s been up to since graduating (hint: a lot!), as well as how training at NAISDA has helped him prepare for a career as diverse as his. Here’s what he had to say.

Please be aware that this article discusses themes of suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit Call beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or visit

Kyle (left) in rehearsals for Legs on the Wall’s The Man with the Iron Neck. Photo by Clare Hawley.

What was your most memorable experience during your time at NAISDA?

It would have to be our second remote Cultural Residency trip up to Elcho Island. The second time around, I had a broader understanding about how this community lives and a stronger connection with the people there. You feel adopted into their families.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since graduating NAISDA

I started out dancing with Bangarra Dance Theatre in its production of lore. After Bangarra, I acted as the lead in a performance piece with Zeal Theatre, which involved travelling around to perform at various schools.

This is my third year working at Alice Springs for Alice Springs Can Dance. We are teaching dance at 10 primary schools across the region over seven weeks and at the end, bring the schools together for community performances. It’s a pretty big thing for the community and has been so popular in past years that we’ve had to add an additional show this year.

I was also recently the main actor in a short film called Hoax by Must Go Faster Films, which won an award at the Brisbane Short Film Festival and has been selected for the Toronto Short Film Festival and will be travelling around to some other festivals.

I’ve also been involved with a program called artback NT, working up with the remote community of Yirrkala teaching hip hop for, and work closely with the community in Taree, teaching dance and working at a local high school as a Support Worker.

Independently, I’ve also been working on my own music and have done a bit of modelling.

How do you think NAISDA has helped you prepare for a career in the arts, and for one as varied as yours?

I think NAISDA catered for the skill sets required for all three industries [acting, dancing and music]. Coming from a traditional dance background, it was great learning so many new techniques from Horton to hip hop. Exposing myself to different forms helped me to become more aware of my movement and my body.

NAISDA has definitely helped me to become more open to learning and has turned me into a go-getter. I’ve learnt that you’ve got to be active and seek out opportunities instead of waiting for them to just fall in your lap.

Kyle Shilling in Legs on the Wall’s The Man with the Iron Neck. Image by Brett Boardman.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be performing in the Legs on the Wall production Man with the Iron Neck at the Brisbane Festival (tickets here). I’ve never done physical theatre work before and there is lots of physical work involved – hanging from harnesses and flying through the air across the stage. I was heavily involved in the development of the piece so learnt a lot in that time, it was an interesting learning experience!

The show touches on a very heavy topic and gives us the raw truth about Aboriginal suicide and the reality that Aboriginal men have the highest suicide rate of any group in the world. This is an important topic for my family and myself. I grew up around depression and anxiety and am aware of the affects that these can have on families. A member of my family also attempted suicide, so it was a tough thing to be involved in.

The piece is about a family who is dealing with the death of their father to suicide and trying to deal with it and move on. The moral is for people to not allow these kinds of things to bring you down and affect who you are or how you will live your life.

Being involved in it has helped with healing and has made me target my physical and mental wellbeing to get back on track with my goals.

Click here to read our interview with Legs on the Wall Artistic Director, Joshua Thomson. 

Finally, what advice might you give to a young person thinking of coming to NAISDA?

A personal mantra of mine is ‘you are your own worst critic’. You have to get yourself to where you want to be, because no one else can help you.

You’ll be faced with obstacles along the way that way that will distract you or knock you down, but you can get over them. Just grab the bull by the horns and go for it!

Why not follow Kyle’s great advice and apply now to become a NAISDA 2019 student? You can find out everything you need about our easy application process and download the online application pack here.