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Initiated in 1982 by UNESCO, International Dance Day is marked annually on April 29 across Canada and around the world. The date commemorates the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), regarded as the founder of modern ballet. We invited Vancouver-based performance artist Ralph Escamillan to write a special International Dance Day message:
When I was asked to write this year’s International Dance Day message, I felt nervous talking about something that holds so much significance in my life. Instead, I offer stories that have transformed me, where dance so happened to be present.
2008 – Harbour Dance Centre
Deciding last minute to go beyond my comfort level and attend class by a guest teacher in town, far more advanced than my ability. The intricacies and musicalities were so foreign to me, but made sense all the same – and most importantly using the body as a tool for storytelling offered me something new at the time. I am reminded of how inspired I was after this class, stating that day that “I will become a dancer”.
2013 – Internet Cafe
Traveling from Surrey and stopping by to check my email at an internet cafe, I got an email from a very important dance figure, requesting me to work with them later in 2014. I remember reading this email with tears running down my face, as I knew the weight of this opportunity presented to someone like myself, only realizing later how much this opportunity would truly shift my entire approach to dance making.
2016 – Latex Ball
Walked my first major ball with my first major house at the 2016 Latex Ball. It was July in NYC and boiling hot. I waited in line with my partner at the time for almost an hour to get into the venue, situated on the west side of the city. We entered a room full of an energy I’ve never felt before. Being there with my (now former) house, I felt safe and confident in this very intimidating environment. I remember being walked up by my house mother, and getting my 10’s – not getting too far – but the moment served as a catalyst for bringing this energy to Vancouver.
The reason I feel it is important to share these very personal experiences is that I truly believe dance, like many things in life, is transformed by moments of action like these above. That by a click of an email, a step on the runway, or a class – your whole world is turned upside down, for the better.
Dance transforms, dance is language, dance is healing, and DANCE IS IN YOU.
Ralph Escamillan is a queer, Canadian-Filipinx performance artist, teacher and community leader based on the unseeded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Nations – on so called Vancouver, BC.
Starting at age 14, Ralph trained first in Breakdancing then explored a multitude of other street dance styles such as HipHop, Popping, House, Waacking and Locking. His passion for dance expanded to include training in Vogue, Ballroom, Ballet, Modern, Jazz and was a graduate of Contemporary Training Program Modus Operandi in 2015.
Ralph has worked/toured with Vancouver companies: Company 605, Co. Erasga Dance, Kinesis Dance Somatheatro, Out Innerspace Theatre, apprenticed with Kidd Pivot in (2014) and and was a guest dancer with Ballet BC (2020). He is currently on contract with Wen Wei Dance, Mascall Dance, and Daina Ashbee.
In the commercial industry, he’s worked with choreographers including AJ Aakomon, Luther Brown, Kenny Ortega, Tucker Barkely and Mandy Moore as well as artists Victoria Duffield and Zendaya Coleman, and was a guest dancer for Janet Jackson’s “Unbreakable” tour in 2015.
With his company FAKEKNOT he creates work that strives to understand the complexities of identity using sound, costume, technology and the body. Recently he’s premiered his newest work whip at the MAI (Montreal) November 2021, and is currently creating a new work with the Philippien textile Piña set to premeire April 2023.
Ralph ‘Posh’ Gvasalia has been in the Ballroom Scene since 2014, opening his own kiki House of Gvasalia and joined the Mainstream House of Basquiat in 2021. The founder and Artistic/Executive Director of the non-profit organization VanVogueJam, Ralph shares his passion for Vogue/Ballroom culture at his weekly pay-what-you-can classes and vogue balls, acting as a beacon for the queer dance form in Western Canada.
The Dance Centre Presents
International Dance Day 2022
April 29, 11am-6pm
Free Admission, registration recommended for some events
Photos: Rydel Cerezo and Luke Austin