The re’s a photo of Graeme Murphy taken when he was about four. He’s sitting under a piano as his mother, Betty, accompanies a deportment and movement group called Plastique. He is entranced. He’s sure of that, even though he doesn’t really remember the occasion itself. The photograph of the little boy beneath the piano has become indivisible from his understanding that, as Betty played, there were “young ladies moving gracefully”. The image has stayed with him for more than 60 years.

Graeme MurphyGraeme Murphy. Photo: Lynette Wills

Was that the tiny spark that lit Murphy’s blazing career? It’s tempting to think so. From that time he loved to dance to his mother’s music, making up “strange, free-form movement” that he jokingly describes as being in the manner of Isadora Duncan (not that he knew who she was at the time). “Did that come from Plastique? I wonder. My mum playing the piano and the memory of all that… I just kept wanting to dance.”

That desire took Murphy right to the top. At only 26 he was named Artistic Director of the Dance Company of New South...