Note: Dayton’s Final Performance as Billy on Broadway was December 12, 2010
Debuts: May 24, 2008 (Sydney) December 19, 2009 (Broadway)
Total Performances as Billy: Unknown (Because Sydney data not recorded) Recorded data: 114.5 [Melbourne = 37.5(includes 1 partial show credited @.5)] [Broadway = 77 ]
Dayton Tavares came to Broadway from Australia. And while BETM was his debut on Broadway, he wasn’t new to the role, having previously played Billy in both the Sydney and Melbourne productions of Billy Elliot the Musical. He is the youngest Australian ever to play a lead role on Broadway.
His hometown is Penrith, which is a suburb in New South Wales, Australia, located west of Sydney.
Born on March 10, 1996, unlike most of the other boys who have played Billy world-wide, Dayton didn’t begin taking dance lessons at an early age. In fact, he’d only been dancing since the age of nine, when he began performing thanks to his sisters. “I wasn’t going to dance, I was playing soccer at the time and my sisters had changed dance schools and there was a boys’ class on, they’re like, ‘Oh just try it’,” Tavares said. “So I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll just try it’.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
That initial class was a hip-hop class at Studio 11 in Penrith. Kylie Vassallo, the teacher at the studio, spotted that Dayton was talented and suggested that he take up dance. “He had so much ability, which was obvious right away”, she said. Now this is where Dayton’s story starts to mirror that of Billy Elliot himself — Ms Vassallo suggested that Dayton take up jazz and tap, but his father didn’t want him to take ballet classes. And so, like Billy, Dayton began taking ballet classes without his father knowing. “We snuck him into ballet class behind his father’s back and he did it for six months before his dad found out,” said Ms Vassallo. “Dayton was winning competitions after only six months, so his father could see there was something there.”
Not only did he like dancing, he excelled in it — winning the 2007 Australian Dancer of the Year title and representing his country at the World Dance Championships in Las Vegas. He has been compared to talented Australian, Hugh Jackman. He also performed at the Urban Music Awards, Industry Awards and at the Sydney Opera House. Oh and, by the way, don’t get on his bad side because he is also a black belt in the martial art of Taekwondo.
However, Dayton truly made his mark in the industry when he was chosen to play the title role in Billy Elliot The Musical in Australia. Dayton had just turned 12 a couple of months before his debut as Billy in Sydney on May 24, 2008. Interviewed years later, Dayton had this to say about about becoming Billy at such a young age, “It was incredible — it was probably the most extreme thing you could do as a 12-year-old.” His run as Billy saw him go on to perform the role in Melbourne, where he played the title role in the opening night performance, before being tapped to hit the Mecca of the musical theatre world — New York.
This video clip, made by a fan, has footage of Dayton as Billy in Australia, inter-spliced with scenes of him at the stage door after his final performance there.
Credit: Video by eliotfan1
And then it was on to Broadway.
In an interview with news.com.au, Dayton said he couldn’t believe he had been selected for the dream part in the Broadway production, “I had my last show in Melbourne and I thought that was it for Billy and then all of a sudden we got this big call saying, ‘We want you to go New York’, and it all just went from there,” Tavares said.
Nora Brennan, the US Casting Director for the show, said in an interview in Australia’s Herald Sun, “He was so outstanding and beautiful as Billy that when an opening came up here (in New York) they wanted to give him that opportunity. They just loved everything about him, to be honest.”
Once Dayton arrived in the States in early November, it was a whirlwind of activity for him. Though he spent a year playing the role in Australia, Dayton had a schedule that included rehearsing almost non-stop, pausing only to sleep, study and eat. “I know most of the show, it’s just getting used to some of the little changes they have here,” he said at the time.
Dayton readily fit in with the younger cast members who, at the time, included five other Billys or Billys-to-be. They ranged from Tony award winners David Alvarez and Trent Kowalik, to veteran Tommy Batchelor (who became one of four boys originating the role of Billy in Chicago), to Alex Ko (who had recently debuted in the role himself but was sidelined with a knee injury) and Dayton’s fellow newcomer, Liam Redhead.
In addition to all the rehearsals, Dayton took part in the Billy Elliot the Musical – Broadway 1st Anniversary cast/crew party which took place on November 13th, after the milestone performance that evening.
Dayton made his Broadway debut on December 19, 2009 — a snowy night in NYC. Later in the week, after his second show as Billy, he commented to freezing fans at the Stage Door that he was having another new experience. He had never seen snow before and was loving it!
In early March of 2010, Dayton sustained a leg injury and was out of the NY Billy rotation for almost three months as he mended and underwent physical therapy. His return to the Imperial Theatre stage took place at the matinee performance on Memorial Day weekend, Sunday, May 30, 2010.
Dayton’s initial contract had him playing Billy through May, 2010, at which time it was extended into December. In early December, it was announced that his last show as Billy would be on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at the evening performance. At that show, a pre-curtain announcement was made that it was Dayton’s last show after many performances as Billy in both Australia and on Broadway. Sitting in the audience was his family who has been so supportive of his journey as Billy and of his performing career in general. Beaming from a seat in the theatre that night was his proud dad Elvis who, due to many complications, had not been able to see his son perform on Broadway until his last two shows, while he was a half a world away in Australia.
In the days before his final performance as Billy, Dayton realized a life-long dream of meeting someone he is often compared with, his fellow countryman, Hugh Jackman.
After a year (and 77 performances) of playing Billy on the Great White Way, Dayton has made his mark on Broadway and is the pride of his Australian countrymen.
Life After Billy
Dayton has been and will always be a performer.
- After BETM, Dayton completed his Certificate IV in Dance at the Brent Street School of Performing Arts.
- He continued to dance, working with major Artists such as Kelly Rowland, Ricky Martin, Rita Ora and the Black Eyed Peas.
- He also danced backup for Johnny Ruffo on One Direction‘s Australian Tour.
- He performed on shows such as The Voice Australia and X – Factor Australia.
- He also starred in TV commercials for Toyota, Jeep and Taco Now.
- Dayton was thrilled to participate in Aladdin and his Wondrous Lamp for Bonnie Lythgoe Productions in July 2015.
- Between 2016-2018, He performed in Opera Australia’s Carmen, choreographed by Kelley Abbey, and The Dream Dance Company’s Genesis, The Secret Society and Enter the Vortex.
- He choreographed and performed in A-Live Entertainment’s Machismo & Music in Motion in 2018.
- In 2018, Dayton participated in the Gold Coast’s first Industry Night with performances from the Gold Coast’s hottest choreographers, Dance groups, Artists and Performers.
Credit: Video by Jesse Rasmussen
- Dayton was featured in Blue Saint Production’s In The Heights in March of 2019.
- He played the role of Indio in West Side Story at Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, from March 22-April 21, 2019.
- From August 27, 2019 to September 8, 2019, Dayton played the role of Twig in Bring it On The Musical Australia.
- In 2019, he choreographed for the show NXTGEN-Dimensions, which is part of the NXTGEN Project.
- Dayton will be appearing in the show Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live during 2020 as the show tours Australia.
- On an on-going basis, one can find Dayton teaching dance regularly at multiple dance studios near his home in Sydney and occasionally in places around the country and even other countries.
Dayton feels the need to give back to the dance world through participation in events that promote young people dancing, especially boys. An example of how he’s done that includes:
- Being involved as a Guest Artist in Connect 2018: Boys Only Dance Event in Sydney Australia. Connect is an event set to bring male dance students, families and male dancers together with dancer teachers and studio owners for support and community.
For more information on Dayton Tavares visit: