From ballet to ballroom – Ron Barker made his mark on the Perth dance scene

Ron Barker and Roberta Scudder

RON Barker is a well known name on the Perth dance scene, making his mark down the years in a life of triumph and tragedy.

Born in Adelaide in September 1936 he moved to Perth with his parents at aged 10.

At 19, while on national service he realised he had no dance skills for an end-of-year ball.

So he took up lessons with a friend, at Scudders in Northbridge and Gilkisons in Perth.

It wasn’t long before Ron decided he ‘liked this caper’.

When his national service ended, Ron continued his dancing, choosing Scudders and attending medal classes on Saturday afternoons.

Beryl Cox, eventually to become his mentor, offered Ron complimentary private lessons so he could catch up with the rest of the class.

Ron was encouraged to dance competitively.

In 1957 he partnered a fellow student, in a beginners’ competition at the Midland Town Hall, dancing the gypsy tap and the merrilyn.

He hated every moment of it and decided to end his competitive dancing career.

But he was asked to partner another fellow student Ione Hicks, in her gold ballroom medal. A lot of work followed with Ron frantically trying to learn the routines.

Regaining some confidence from his more than adequate performance, Ron re-embarked upon his competitive dancing, winning the amateur new vogue State titles in 1964 and 1965.

In 1965, Ron turned professional and started dancing cabaret with Roberta Scudder.

The same year, well known WA choreographer Norma Atkinson asked Bob Scudder to find four men to partner her dancers in a pas de deux ballet routine at His Majesty’s Theatre.

As one of the partners, Ron found himself being instructed in classical ballet by Norma and in lift work by Ron Pashley.

He learnt skills in ballet, jazz and tap dancing, while continuing to work with Roberta for competitive cabaret and new vogue events.

In 1966 and 1967 Ron and Roberta won the WA Professional Exhibition titles competing against Alwyn Dedman and others.

In 1967 he went to Melbourne to watch the World Championships and take lessons from Jack and Edna McPherson, who completely changed his approach towards dancing.

In 1968 Ron and Roberta were appointed the WA representatives to the Australasian Professional New Vogue championships, making up a team with Derek and Pam Gatley, the WA professional ballroom representatives.

Ron and Roberta took the Australasian cabaret title.

Ron later had a new partner Margaret Loftus (née Felton), and the pair won the South Pacific and Australasian titles in the new vogue and cabaret fields and every WA title in both categories.

Ron then partnered Robyn Grant, and the pair won numerous state and national titles in new vogue and cabaret.

In Queensland they won the 1971 South Pacific championships and Brisbane Star titles. They won both titles at the Australasians in Sydney.

Ron then retired from competition at the national level.

Ron started dancing standard and new vogue at state level with Leslie Norris while training for his members’ ballroom under Derek Gatley.

He moved to Geraldton with his job and recalled enjoying his time teaching with Doreen Dawson who asked him to choreograph two pieces and dance the role of Prince Charming in Cinderella.

In Perth, he danced with the Perth City Ballet in the role of Woolfred in Giselle.

In 1974 Ron and Roberta took over the dance school from Bob Scudder, but a year later Alan Bond bought the building.

After renting floor space from Winnie Wright in Piccadilly Arcade for a few months, they moved their school to Queen Street, Perth and later to Irwin Street.

In 1976 Ron opened the Ron Barker School of Dancing at the Mount Lawley Tennis Club, the Mount Lawley Protestant Hall in Beaufort Street and his home base studio at St Alban’s Church Hall in Highgate.

After eight years, Ron again moved his school to the Blind Association building in Maylands where he remained until 2004.

Ron married Catherine Henderson in 1991 and became the proud father of a daughter, Emily who became accomplished in music, voice and acting while sharing her parents love of dance.

Tragically, Catherine was killed in a car crash in 2004, in which Emily was critically injured. From then on Ron took on sole responsibility for his daughter’s care.

For more than 30 years Ron held the office of registration officer for the WA branch of the Australian Dancing Board of Control and continued in this role with Dancesport WA.

For a time, he worked for both organisations in this capacity.

In the early 2000s Ron was officially recognised for his contributions to dance in Australia by Dancesport Australia.

He passed away in July 2014 after a life dedicated to dance.

If anyone in the Perth dance scene has historic photos and information for Adam Penn’s ongoing dance series, please contact Adam at or on mobile 0412 361 917.