Dragon Ball is back as politics is swept aside for fairytale dresses

IT WAS the social event of the year but in 1972 the Dragon Festival Ball ceased to run when the Whitlam government broke ties with Taiwan.

Forty years later, the Dragon Ball is back.

King Fong was on the ball's organising committee for 12 years and he remembers the hype, glamour and eventual demise of the popular event.

''The year that it ended we knew it was going to be the last. We didn't want to upset the Republic of China. To be diplomatic we just closed down,'' Mr Fong said.

''That was the one and only big social event of the year in Sydney's Chinatown.''

The consul-general's wife from Taiwan used to receive the debutantes at the Dragon Festival Ball. When the Australian government instead recognised the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, the festivities ended.

Speaking about this year's event, Mr Fong wanted to distance the ball from politics: ''It was a bit of a diplomatic issue. That's why we don't talk about it. We don't want to create drama. All of us were volunteers. None of us were pro-political. In the ball, it wasn't political.''

The ball began in 1938 to help orphans in China after war broke out with Japan the year before. Relief funds were raised - anywhere from £12,000 to £15,000 - to send to China and donate to local charities such as the Red Cross.

Robin Yip, 73, from Dover Heights, remembers the festivities on the night she made her debut in 1957. She wore a ''fairytale dress'' and had a ''fine looking man'' at her side. ''My father got a shock at the bill but it was a beautiful dress.''

As hundreds of eyes gazed upon her, the debutante walked through the crowd and was presented to society: ''It was exciting. It's like getting married. As you stood the spotlight was on you.''

Gill Minervini, of City of Sydney council, said: ''I think the only politics at the Dragon Ball is making sure your dance card is full. It's a good fun night out.''

Ms Minervini wanted festivalgoers to experience some glamour and big band swing: ''Hopefully it will become an annual event.''

Shani Mossat, 26, of Sydney, has bought her ticket and was tossing up between wearing an Asian inspired dress or something Western from World War I.

The Dragon Ball will be held at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday, February 23. Tickets from $60 plus booking fee are sold at moshtix.com.

The story Dragon Ball is back as politics is swept aside for fairytale dresses first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide