Henry Kurylewski was born in Brisbane to Polish parents who emigrated to Australia following World War II. His passion for dance emerged at the age of 10 after seeing the Polish State Song & Dance Ensemble MAZOWSZE perform in Brisbane in 1967 followed by appearances by the Polish State Song & Dance Ensemble ŚLĄSK in 1974, with both companies inspiring him to study Polish folk dance.
Graduate studies broadened his experience in the dramatic arts, and as a secondary teacher, he directed and choreographed numerous student productions including Godspell, Once Upon a Mattress, Grease, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Look Homeward, Angel, The Diary of Anne Frank, Our Town and Dark of the Moon. Also trained in classical ballet (Sandra Pincham School of Dance, Gladstone, and the Ashgrove Dance Studio, Brisbane), he has appeared in principal roles with BALLET THEATRE OF QUEENSLAND in productions of Coppelia, Les Sylphides, Les Patineurs and Aurora’s Wedding, and has given featured role performances in The Nutcracker, Peter Pan, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. He has also appeared with THE DANCERS COMPANY of THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET in Giselle, with THE ROYAL BALLET in Swan Lake, with the PARIS OPERA BALLET in La Bayadere, with the BOLSHOI BALLET in Le Corsaire, and with AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE in Swan Lake.
In 1982, Henry founded OBERTAS and continues to be its Artistic Director and Choreographer. In 1988, he travelled for the first time to Poland in order to study and perform Polish folk dance first hand, and has subsequently returned a number of times to further develop his knowledge of Polish regional dances. His choreographic talent is in growing demand and he now travels nationally and internationally to run national/character workshops for dance companies and ballet studios.
Having been the Artistic Director of five of the last fourteen national festivals of Polish Visual and Performing Arts known as PolArt (Brisbane 1988, Brisbane 2000, Hobart 2006, Perth 2012 and Brisbane 2018), Henry is renowned for his spectacular staging and extensive knowledge of and invaluable contributions to Polish folk dance in Australia. In addition to his expertise in Polish folklore, Henry’s stagecraft and artistry were acknowledged through his appointment as Artistic Director of the inaugural Festival of Slavic Culture in Brisbane SlavFest, staged with critical acclaim in 2017.
2017: NATIONAL EDUCATION COMMISSION OF POLAND MEDAL: For significant services toward Education and Youth Formation.
2009: POLISH COMMUNITY COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA MEDAL: For significant contributions toward Polish Culture in Australia.
2003: HONORARY LIFE MEMBER – POLISH ASSOCIATION OF QUEENSLAND: In recognition of outstanding service to the Polish community through the promotion of Polish Culture in Australia.
2001: POLISH CONSUL’S COMMENDATION: For significant contributions toward Polish Culture in Australia through PolArt 2000.
1999: QUEENSLAND MULTICULTURAL SERVICE AWARD: In recognition of outstanding voluntary service and contribution to the promotion of multiculturalism and improved community relations in Queensland.
1999: POLISH CONSUL’S COMMENDATION: For significant contributions toward Polish Culture in Australia through Folkloric Song and Dance.
1990: POLAND’S SILVER CROSS OF MERIT: For significant contributions toward Polish Culture in Australia through Language Education and Folkloric Song and Dance.
1978: THE MOLLY WOODWARD AWARD: For significant contributions to Theatre at Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education.
Polart 2006 Finale – choreographed by Henryk Kurylewski
Solo – choreographed by Henryk Kurylewski