Ten years ago, Jayden Kitchener-Waters performed his first dance with the Gomeroi Dance Company. He was 11.
"I ended up running offstage because my lap-lap [a traditional garment] fell off, and I sat backstage with my face to the corner, just almost crying, I was embarrassed," he said.
"But ever since then I've been alright."
A decade on, the Gomeroi dancer is part of the second generation to run Tamworth's semi-professional dance troupe.
They haven't worked out titles yet, but Mr Kitchener-Waters will step into the same front-man role that founding member Marc Sutherland held for 15 years, until this month.
"That's a big word isn't it, taking over?," Mr Kitchener-Waters said.
"I've been involved in the dance company since I was a young fella. When they sort of asked me if I wanted to, there was no questions asked - absolutely, I'd do anything to give back to the company."
Mr Sutherland said Mr Kitchener-Waters' generation were the first Gomeroi kids who had an opportunity to learn their culture through their entire education - partly thanks to the dance company.
It's time to "pass the torch", he said.
"People stuck with us and people supported us and now it's at the point ... the next generation are stepping up to the mantle," he said.
"It's not scary because we have complete faith and trust in Jayden and the rest of the Gomeroi dancers."
Mr Kitchener-Waters has big plans for the company, starting with interstate and international tours. But he said the dance company is more than just an important performing arts organisation.
"I was a bit ashamed being a blackfella when I was younger and seeing people like Uncle Marc and the dance company share our culture, share our dances with no shame or apprehension whatsoever, that does wonders for young people," he said.
"The big thing that they've taught me is that we're not dancing for any one person, or people. We're dancing for our Old People, those that have gone before us and those that have yet to come. We're dancing for Mother Earth and father in the sky. Just respect for them, I guess."
They're not too sure when their next gig will be, but Mr Kitchener-Waters can't wait.
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