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Terry Roberts and Joelene King




In February 1983, David Bowie sought two young actors to star in the video for the lead single of his upcoming album Let's Dance.

He visited Sydney's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Dance Theatre and at this time Terry Roberts and Joelene King were students.

Terry and Joelene successfully auditioned for the video (Stephen Page - now the director of Bangara - also auditioned).

The Let's Dance song and album became the biggest smash hit of Bowie's career and in 2010, Bowie Downunder caught up with Joelene King:

"I am over the moon that people still remember 'Let's Dance'. It was a wonderful experience for me and a wonderful time in my life, dancing in the company with other aboriginals, being on stage - oh my God. WOW...

I met some beautiful and talented people, thank you, I remembered the best time of my life the 80's was great. Now I am just living, working, doing normal things :). Anyway I've had my '15 minutes of fame' :)".


At the time of filming, Joelene was only 22 years old and remembers being painfully shy:

"I remember looking into his eyes and seeing he was a very warm-hearted person. That sort of brought me out of my shell, in a way. He was a wonderful person to be around."

King says that both her and Terry received $1000 for five days work but more exciting than being paid was simply being in the video.

Bowie also donated $10,000 to the dance school.




Above:
Bowie with Stephen Page and Joelene King in 1983.




Serious Moonlight Tour (Backstage)



Later that year when David Bowie returned for the Serious Moonlight concert tour (November 1983), he provided Joelene and Terry VIP access.

"We went backstage before he performed. Straight away he said 'Hi Jo' and gave me a great big hug. He was very friendly, humble, family orientated, affectionate and loving. "

~ Joelene King


Did you attend Bowie's 1983 Sydney shows? Read a whole lot more about that on our dedicated page. You can also check out some amazing pictures (including the one on the left) taken by BDU audience member Geoff Schuck.



Above: Bowie and Joelene on the Sydney road known as Broadway - one of the sets of Let's Dance.



Film Mementos





Terry and Joelene were allowed to keep mementos from the Lets Dance shoot.

To this day, Joelene still has the dress she wore in the video (depicted proudly on the left by Joelene).

The famous "red shoes" (the main symbol representing white capitalist oppression), however, have not been seen since the 1980s!







The Fall of Terry Roberts



Although Joelene now leads a life in suburban Sydney and was successfully contacted by the media (starting with Bowie Downunder in 2010), it would appear that the later movements of Terry are more sketchy.

According to an item reposted on the AAAstuff website (the original item labelled as being posted in 2003 on austrep.com website), Terry suffered a life encompassing mental health problems and potential government neglect. To our understanding both Terry Roberts and the person who wrote this piece - Greg Suzor - have since passed away.

Given the details to emerge from the Terry Roberts story and the love we have for everyone involved in David Bowie's music, this is nothing short of an absolute tragedy.



Above: Terry Roberts and Joelene King. Photo by Patrick Jones.


Indigenous History and Art History






David Bowie's 'Let’s Dance' video was a direct statement against racism. It highlighted the plight of aboriginals through popular music THREE YEARS before the formation of Yothu Yindi. It also predated the central focus of aboriginal rights presented by Midnight Oil.

In 2006, the Let's Dance video found a place among Australia's indigenous art history when it appeared as a special video installation at The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. This was for the 23rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Art Award.

In 2013, Joelene King said:

"We didn't know how significant the song was. David Bowie had made so many videos that were 'out there'. So I didn't foresee it would be so influential to Aboriginal people, so inspiring for them to see one of their own up there on TV.''

In 2015, the David Bowie Is exhibit came to Melbourne and coinciding with this were some events at the Koorie Heritage Trust located beside ACMI at Federation Square. These included Dead Tongue - a video installation responding to themes in the work of David Bowie and also some talks: Let's Dance: In Between the Message and the Medium.

In 2016, the First Nations entry in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade included a tribute to the video. This was in recognition of the global exposure the clip gave to discrimination experienced by Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.