“If you had to describe your dance moves in one word, what would it be?”
“Probably… ‘Random’. Can I go now? Nutbush is about kick-off!” Emily says.
I have so many questions. What is ‘Nutbush’? Is it a new adaptive sport or an Aussie variant for what most other people would refer to as Volleyball perhaps..? In Oz you see, ‘footy’ is Australian Rules Football, ‘RaRa’ is Rugby Union and Soccer is, well… footy.
Emily Biliano is 21, from the Gold Coast and moved here to work on the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 – and right now she can’t wait for this interview to be over so she can get back to ‘revving-up’ the crowd at the wheelchair tennis finals.
Emily’s role is a ‘Games Services Coordinator’.
“So basically my role is logistics. Anything to do with transport, construction of the Games areas, waste management, that sort of thing.”
Without Emily and the other hundreds of other ‘Emilys’ that have been working around the clock for the last few months, nothing at these Games would work. She is one of the many unsung heroes sweating the small stuff, so the competitors, family, friends and fans enjoying Sydney’s Olympic Park, don’t have to.
But right now, all Emily wants to do is watch… take part in… engage with… celebrate… this mysterious ‘Nutbush’.
But, before she does, there are just a few more questions.
“So, you’re not a cheerleader then?” I enquire.
“No, I just like to get out there in between sets and rev-up the crowd with my moves.” And she really does.
While Games Services Coordinator is her day job, between sets at the wheelchair tennis she takes on the unofficial role of chief cheerleader. Running from the base line to the tram line to “throw shapes” at the appreciative crowd.
“I’d say the crowd respond best to the classics. They love a bit of ‘Girls just wanna have fun’. They go wild for ‘The Macarena’.” She explains.
“Oh yeah, can’t get enough it.” She says. “They‘ll respond to a bit of Dance Electronica, but the classics are what they want.”
It’s clear where Emily’s passion lies. It’s in making people smile and the longer this interview goes on, the more she’s kept from the ‘Nutbush’…
And then it begins…
A church house, gin house
A school house, outhouse…
The penny drops like a tonne weight: NUTBUSH! Tina Turner!
By this point, Emily has fled to take up position in front of her adoring – and they really are adoring – crowd. A cheer goes up. Quite possibly the loudest cheer of the day.
Emily, accompanied by a couple of volunteers, a Dutch competitor and two soldiers from the Australian Army, break into a well-choreographed ‘Box-step’. Perfectly in sync to the dulcet tones of Tina Turner’s classic, Nutbush City Limits.
The crowd are loving it. Cameras are flashing, people are cheering and all I can think to do is stare in amazement.
Everywhere you go around the Games’ village, you hear people talk about the healing and unifying power of sport, but right now it’s the power of dance. And the power of Tina Turner… and the power of Emily from the Gold Coast leading the choreographed charge with competitors and infantrymen.
One of the soldiers sidles over as I film the scene on my phone and looks at the clip.
“Mateship.” He says pointing at the screen.
And you can see it everywhere.
By Liam Maguire