welcoming and familiar face, having taught classes at the studios for 30 years.
He’s also the inspiration behind our 2019 Mardi Gras Parade appearance – a celebration of diversity through dance.
Ramon was one of the first people to be granted a residency visa on compassionate grounds through the Gay Immigration Task Force when he moved to Australia from the Philippines in the 1980s.
We spoke to him about his countless performances in Mardi Gras over the last three decades and choreographing Sydney Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary float:
Q. Tell us about your first experience as a Mardi Gras performer.
The first Mardi Gras Party I performed in also happened to be the year Kylie Minogue made her debut in 1994. I performed on stage with twenty other dancers to the song What Do I Have To Do, which Kylie sang at 3am to a staggering 19,000 people at the Royal Hall of Industries.
Kylie, the boys and I came out from under the stage on a lift and we could hardly hear the music because so many people were screaming. It was such a buzz. It was one of the best shows Mardi Gras has put on for the main party. It was also one of the best shows I’ve done because at the time, Kylie was becoming a big pop star!
I’ve performed in John Paul Young’s Love Is In the Air and Thelma Houston’s Don’t Leave Me This Way. Years after that, I started choreographing for Mardi Gras shows as well.
I choreographed the very first televised Sydney Mardi Gras Parade by Network 10. I was commissioned by Mardi Gras to choreograph the first Marching Drag entry of all 60 drag queens as well. At the same time, we choreographed and danced in the opening show of the Mardi Gras Party with Marching Drags, Marching Boys and Marching Girls.
Ramon celebrating Mardi Gras in 1998. He performed in Kylie Minogue’s Better The Devil You Know that year. Photo from Star Observer
Choreographing the Sydney Dance Company 2019 Mardi Gras float is a dream come true for me. It has been on my wish list of things to do and I’m very proud to showcase the diversity and inclusiveness of Sydney Dance Company.
The process has been amazing. The choreography is simple yet effective and fun. The selection of music that DJ Sveta has put together and the sleek costume design by Aleisa Jelbart and the support I get from the production team and the people involved is an absolute dream.
I am so excited and proud and I’m looking forward to the parade this Saturday!
My inspiration are the people – all the students who come to our classes, the Company dancers, the creative team, the administrative team and the people who support us. They are all included in the float.
It’s been so rewarding to see them all dancing together and of course, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Company by wearing gold! My idea of fun is dancing, inclusion, diversity and team work.
Q. You were one of the first people to be granted an Australian permanent residency under the Gay Immigration Task Force. Can you tell us a little about that?
I came to Australia in 1982 to join a small dance company called Dances of Asia and to live with my partner. I was granted another 12 months to stay but unfortunately, by the end of 1983, I was rejected. Through my application through the Gay Immigration Task Force, I was able to stay while my paper was processed.
Getting my permanent residency was not an easy ride. At that time, I was in the middle of my dance training and adjusting to a different culture. I didn’t earn enough money to contribute to my partner and I was really hoping to make it here.
I worked so hard to prove to myself that I deserved to be here. Getting the first gay immigration residency is such a big achievement not only for me, but for the rest of the community.
At that time, HIV/AIDS bigotry and hatred was around. I’m lucky enough that it didn’t affect my application. That’s why we kept the whole immigration thing quiet as it wasn’t publicly announced at that time. I guess that’s why not many people know about it until today.
Q. You were also part of the Gay Immigration Task Force float in the 1985 Mardi Gras. What was that like?
When we did the parade in 1985, we were literally just a walking group wearing our traditional costumes to represent us. The response from the crowd was amazing. I remember the song I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner playing. I got quite teary. It was an unforgettable moment.
Q. What are you most looking forward to in the 2019 Mardi Gras Parade?
I’m looking forward to seeing other groups and individuals and meeting people of different backgrounds, genders and sexualities. I hope there’s lots of glitter and rainbows and of course, I’m looking forward to the crowd that will cheer us all on! I can’t wait!
Stay tuned for Sydney Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary float in the Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday 2 March. You can livestream on SBS here.
Ramon teaches Jazz and Jazz Workout on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.