Life after dance: Mark Byrne
Mark Byrne was 24 years old, and rehearsing for the Victorian State Opera’s production of West Side Story in 1994, when he sustained a serious injury to his back. A fellow cast member fell on him during practice on stage. As a result of the impact, one of the discs between two vertebrae (around L5, L4) was chipped, rendering him with only 27 per cent mobility in his back. He underwent intensive rehabilitative treatment and was given the go ahead to return to work. But after a week found he was “back to where he started”, so the treatment was deemed unsuccessful.
It was a huge blow to a man who had been dancing since the age of three. Byrne had started in TV from the age of 10 and on stage in musicals from the moment he finished his HSC (at the McDonald College). “I don't think I really believed them,” he says now. “It’s that dancer thing - that we don't think injuries will really stop us – and we can overcome pain.”
But life must go on. The VSO’s insurance company organised “Career Transition Rehabilitation” for him, which saw him immersing himself in a managerial course. As part of this program he was given the role of assisting the director, Ian Judge, on the show’s Sydney season.
When he finished with West Side Story, he then volunteered to work full time for a year with Sydney theatrical agent, Penny Williams. He next secured a job as production coordinator for Back Row Productions, which gave him experience on the touring circuit (Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney Festivals), with shows like Paul Mc Dermott’s Mosh and the Akira Drummers. He then worked as a freelance production coordinator for Optus (in-house productions) and as a production manager for Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP).
At the end of ’96 he opened the theatrical agency, MBM, with long-term friend Lisa Perry. Their original focus was the representation of actors for film and television only. Byrne then started to diversify - discovering and developing new music artists. He was considered good enough for Sony/BMG to give him his own label (within the Sony structure) in 2004. Rogue Traders was one of this labels first acts. He sold this business in 2007 and then added a literary management arm with Lisa Hanrahan. Titles this business is responsible for include Rae Morris’s Make Up series, Scott McGregor’s Fix It and Monica Trapaga’s She’s Leaving Home.
Mark Byrne Management now has a management team of five who represent services in music, literature, theatre, corporate entertainment and advertising. These days Byrne now focuses solely on celebrity management with a stable of talent that includes Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3, You’re Next), Natalie Bassingthwaighte (X-factor, SYTYCD), Matt Lee (Mary Poppins, SYTYCD) and Timomatic (Australia’s Got Talent).
“It was lucky that it happened (the injury) early because I was forced to make a decision,” Byrne says. “And now, I find I get far more satisfaction from seeing other people fulfill their creative potential and for me to use all the data I’ve collected across my experience and allow their journey to be faster and (ideally) more successful. I’ve found the perfect outlet for all I want to do!”
- SALLY CLARK
See Life after Dance: Amy Hollingsworth on this site or many more dancer stories in the Feb/Mar issue of 'Dance Australia'.