Ralph Escamillan bursts into dance firmament

2nd update: December 12, 2020, 6 PM

Updated: December 8, 2020, 11:08 AM

Vancouver, B.C.

An interview with the versatile dancer Ralph Escamillan

Teodoro Alcuitas

Editor, Philippine Canadian News. Com

At first I thought I was doing a cooking interview. 

Meeting the fame dancer Ralph Escamillan in his kitchen through the modern technology Zoom, was an experience I haven’t done before.

“Are you sure you want to go on with this interview?” I ask him when I realized he was in the midst of preparation for his dinner.

“No problem, I can talk while I’m cooking,” he assured me. 

And so we talked for a couple of hours about his life – his beginnings and where he is now, while he mixes ingredients and reaches for a pan.

In the world of dance, the name Ralph Escamillan does not immediately come to mind. Among Filipinos, Alvin Erasga Tolentino is the image that pops out.

Erasga of Co. ERASGA, is the trail-blazer that broke ceilings in the dance world and is celebrating two decades of dance this month.

Escamillan is just getting to be known, albeit he was dancing when he was 14.

The 27-year old, like Erasga, is queer and trained first in break dancing, then explored a multitude of other street dance styles such as Popping, House, Waacking and Locking.


Escamillan was born in Brampton Ontario in 1993 but raised in the Philippines by his grandparents while his mother continued to work in Canada. He joined his mother when he was three and settled in Vancouver’s Westend  where he grew up.

While in high school at King George Secondary, he worked in the school’s cafeteria training in Red Seal techniques to pursue a culinary career.

“I wanted to be a Chef and worked for a while with Cafe Crepe while indulging with my passion for break dancing and hip-hop.” 

“Cooking teaches you discipline which is important in dance, understanding time management and finding nuance,” he adds.

He knew early on that dance will be his calling and going to college was far from his mind. I asked him if his mother supported his plan.

“In the beginning, she was reluctant – there’s no money in dance,” she tells me.

He trained in the contemporary dance program Modus Operandi in Vancouver in 2011 – graduating in 2015. After his first year he moved to Toronto, but missing the incredibly life altering program decided to move back. There was also a scarcity of male dancers at the time in Vancouver, giving Ralph opportunity to work a variety of companies even before graduating.

Emershing fully in the dance world, he threw himself into the community and in 2014 got involved in the LGBTQ+, Black and Latinx subculture known as the Ballroom Scene. Known as ‘Posh’ Gvasalia Lanvin, Ralph opened his own Kiki House Gvasalia in 2017 and later joined Xclusive House of Lanvin.

Coming out

We couldn’t help asking about his struggle being queer.

How did he cope with it?

“I did not ‘come out’ formally until I was 16 years old,” he confided adding that he had to suppress his feelings about himself.

 How did your mother take it?

“It took her a long time to understand me but eventually she did.”

His mother used to work  in the medical field as a Registered Medical Technologist at the University of Santo Thomas (UST)Hospital in Manila,  and went on to complete a  degree in Medical Technology.  She now works for Stantec, a Design and Build firm as a Business Solutions Analyst.

“She is  an independent and liberated woman who took risks and is now comfortable in how she lives her life,” he says of his mother.

“Mom knew early on that I did not have a love of academia and I was very vocal about it at age 14. I was self-sufficient enough to pursue my dreams in the world of dance.”

He admits his career is a “struggle” like any other but finds comfort in his art which has opened up new vistas for him.

“It is now more diverse with people of colour coming on.”

 “Dance taught me a new consciousness and helped me rediscover my identity,” adding that he does not want his works to define him.

“I’ve learned, in the last few years the importance of my skin and my ancestry and being a male-identifying queer person, who is Filipino, and who comes from a diverse street dance background,” he told Dance International.


The prolific artist does not stop at just performing alone – he shares his talent with others by teaching and putting on events. He founded the non-profit VanVogueJam where he shares his passion at his weekly by-donation class and vogue balls in Vancouver.He defines Vogue/Ballroom as a style of dance/community that “empowers you to find your individuality and self-confidence.”

He has been teaching drop-ins, workshop, privates and progressive classes professionally since he was 18, across the globe.His classes range from highly intricate choreography for advanced dancers, to fun choreography for the first time dancer and everyone in between.

He started officially training in vogue/ballroom culture in 2015 after a private lesson with the American Leiomy Maldonado  the “Wonder Woman of Vogue”in New York.

His company FakeKnot, where he is artistic director, is the umbrella entity for inclusive performance works that play with the complexities of identity and culture through costume, sound, technology, and movement. While grounded in street, commercial, and contemporary dance techniques, it honours Escamillan’s  queer and People of Colour (POC) identity.

Recognition and award

Escamillan’s work has recently been recognized with a Chrystal Dance Prize by Dance Victoria. He was awarded a $10,000 prize  to develop a new dance work with Filipino dancer Raul “Buboy” Raquitico entitled Piña that will be developed over a two-year period. Named for Dr. Betty “Chrystal” Kleiman, it is awarded annually  to artists who share Chrystal’s generosity and passion for self-expression.

As a commercial dancer working on film, TV and live concerts, Escamillan has firsthand experience working in the pressures and the joys of these industries. He has worked on as skeleton crew with leading choreographers Luther Brown, Tucker Barkley, Paul Becker, Kenny Ortega and AJ Akamon and has danced with Victoria Duffield, Zendaya and Janet Jackson. In the commercial industry, he’s worked with choreographers including AJ Aakomon, Luther Brown, Paul Becker, 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.

Escamillan has worked and toured with Vancouver companies Company 605, Co. ERASGA Dance, Kinesis Dance Somatheatro, Out Innerspace Theatre, Ballet BC, and apprenticed with Kidd Pivot in 2014. 

He is currently on contract with Wen Wei Dance, and Mascall Dance

Despite the high-stress nature of his profession, he says he is learning to “calm down and find balance in my work.”

“I enjoy and love what I am doing and dance gives me a chance to choose what I want to do.” 

Upcoming shows:


FakeKnot Studio Showing


whip is a duet performed entirely in leather hoods, leaving performers blind for the duration of the performance. Inspired by the virtuosic head-whip motion found in a multitude of dance forms, the duality of the leather being both soft/hard is revealed through the work. Bodies explore images of consent through a range of physical touch, with the support of interactive new media light and originally composed sound design. This online showing will share excerpts of work in progress and a conversation with the artists moderated by Lee Su-Feh.

Monday December 14, 2020 | 5pm PST – Monday December 21, 2020 | 5pm PST

Free, registration requiredRegistration is now open for this digital showing, streaming December 14-21, 2020.

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