ONE of the lead dancers in an Brazilian dance show is not openly-gay, but also a gay rights advocate who has grabbed headlines and appeared on American TV on the matter.

Introducing Henri Velandia (pictured above, fourth from the right with long hair), a Venezuelan salsa dancer stars in Brazouka, a production that has just ended its season in Perth and will open in Sydney On November 13 before touring to Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

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Written and created by Pamela Stephenson Connolly, wife of Billy Connolly, the show is high-energy, gravity-defying production based on the true story of the dance leader Braz Dos Santos.

Velandia’s role in the show is Oxumare, the rainbow god of courage representing a turning point in the story of Braz.

“It touches me deeply every time. I feel really identify with this part,” he said.

“As it is with many of us in our lives, a time of struggle requires only courage to find the strength to make decisions. And in this process, we somehow allow all our colors to shine bright and to take that step of faith.”

One moment of struggle in Velandia’s life was when he once faced deportation from the US in 2011, despite being legally married an American man.

“Fighting for gay rights was an experience that me and my husband were never thought we would end up doing,” he told the Star Observer.

“Me being a dancer and my husband a PhD from Princeton University wasn’t exactly what we used to do. I’m certainly grateful to our amazing lawyer Lavi Soloway who guided us in this crucial time for our lives and many others.”

Velandia believes that one way Australia can make marriage equality happen a lot sooner is if there were more visibility and shared stories of committed couples where one of them is not a local citizen.

“Australia like many other first-word countries will have the opportunity to change in their own time,” he said.

“Something that will help the change is when many couples or binational couples start sharing their personal stories on how this could be affecting many of them.

“I fully understand the struggle as I went through the same experience.”

Despite this, Velandia said he was already making the most of his Australian trip.

“I’m am so blessed to be here, it’s my first time,” he said.

“I can’t wait to see the crazy wildlife, kangaroo specially. I already met the famous quokkas. I also heard of the beautiful summers at the Gold Coast.”

Details and tickets, click here

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