Rhys Bobridge puts away his dancing shoes and steps up to the mic. Andrew Shaw listens in.
Rhys Bobridge’s So You Think You Can Dance? web page lists Velvet Goldmine as his favourite movie. Based loosely on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop during the early seventies, Goldmine is about rock’s flirtation with glam and men who wore make-up – and when you meet Bobridge you realise why he likes the film. Wearing a black hoody trimmed with silver sequins, his fawn hair cut in an angular fringe, head half-shaved, with toxic-yellow nail polish and a massive silver watch in the shape of a boom box on his wrist, he is superqueer.
“I got it made,” he says of the hoody. “It does have a matching track suit bottom, but I thought that might have been a little too much.”
It’s hard to imagine anything being too much for Bobridge, who became a national icon earlier this year when he appeared on TV show So You Think You Can Dance? Keen to keep himself in the public gaze, he’s begun a singing career with the release of his first single ‘Hot Summer’ late last month. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I never thought I’d get the opportunity. I never pushed myself in that direction, but when the opportunity was presented to me I thought, run with it.”
Bobridge was born in Adelaide, where he first became interested in performance.
=“I was very popular in primary school,” he says, “but when I got to high school things kind of turned. I always had girlfriends and everything, but obviously I was a little bit different. I wasn’t playing football, I wasn’t first picked on the sports team, that’s for sure.
“I always had my outlet of performing in dance and singing class. It was really good for me. I think if I didn’t have that outlet, high school would have been a lot harder. I did get pretty depressed in high school.”
He moved to Melbourne seven years ago, loving his adopted city “because it doesn’t take itself too seriously”.
“Sydney is all about the fabulous party. It’s being seen and talking to the right people. And I’m good at doing all of that, don’t get me wrong, but the truth about me is I’m a bit of a dag.”
Known to the Melbourne gay scene well before SYTYCD? as drag artist Regime Dettol, Bobridge is philosophical about the excesses of showbiz. “I grew up in gay culture from quite a young age. I started playing around with drag when I was 16 and I got exposed to a lot from a very young age, and I learnt to deal with it from a very young age. I’ve had that time in my life where I can party all night and do silly things. I feel like I’ve been there and done that, and I know what really makes me happy now.”
Helping to shape Bobridge’s new singing career is Robert Conley, who co-produced Darren Hayes’ last two solo albums, and Nick & Mike aka Supershake. ‘Hot Summer’ has the chunky synth hooks of The Presets anchored to a dance beat guaranteed to keep punters moving. The voice sounds solid enough. An album is on its way.
“It’s the sound of me,” Bobridge says. “I don’t think we’re making any landmark revolutions with our music, but what we’re working towards with the album is a futuristic perspective on the past. It’s modern, but it’s taking elements from RnB, hip-hop, disco, indie, jazz, jive – all those elements that have influenced me.”
He likes Lady Gaga (“She’s bringing back the shoulder pad. Her look is like an 80s perspective on the future: a little bit Grace Jones, a little bit Jetsons, a bit Bowie”) and in a fantasy world he’d work with Beyonce (“amazing performer”).
Dancing, singing, touring, being interviewed ten times a day – it seems like a lot of work. Why do it?
“It makes me happy,” he replies. “But also it’s what I’m best at. I don’t see myself doing anything else. I will be entertaining people for the rest of my life, regardless of whether this music career works or not. There’s so much that I want to do and this is another box I’ve been able to tick.” soyouthinkyoucandance.info