While I was in Philadelphia for the summer, I went to a Ball with my friend. At first, I had no idea what Ballroom was until I heard of the movie Paris is Burning. After I watched Paris is Burning, I wanted to learn more about voguing, which is what they do at a Ball. You might never have heard of Balls or voguing, but now you will know about the history if you haven’t heard of Willi Ninja.
History of Voguing
Since I don’t know that much about voguing, I’m going to refer to my favorite site wikipedia and give you some background information:
Vogue is a form of modern dance characterized by photo model like poses integrated with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg and body movements. The style of dance arose from the Harlem ballrooms back in the early 1930s, which was then called “performance” and evolved into the more intricate and illusory form that is now called “vogue”.
There are two distinct styles of vogue: Old Way (pre-1990) and New Way. Old Way is characterized by formation of lines, symmetry, precision in the execution of such formations and graceful, fluid like action. New Way is characterized by a more rigid, geometric pattern movement coupled with “clicks” (limb contortions at the joints) and “arms control” (sleight of hand and wrist illusions). Vogue also encompasses other forms of dance and movement, namely modern jazz, ballet, gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, martial arts, breakdance, yoga, etc. Some dance historians even point out that breakdance and vogue evolved out of each other, with artists from both sides interacting with each other in New York City’s Central Park, West Side Piers, Harlem and Washington Square Park during the 70s and early 80s.
Voguing has evolved since its beginning and continues to be developed further as an established dance form that is practiced in gay dance clubs in New York, and other big cities throughout the United States–mainly Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami and Chicago.
Though voguing usually takes place in gay clubs frequented by African Americans and Latin American males, it is also practiced by a small number of non-gay individuals and outside of the club scene. Formal competitions occur in the form of balls held by houses or collectives of dancers and performers.
Some influential houses include the House of Xtravaganza, the House of Revlon, the House of Ninja, the House of Infiniti, the House of Aviance and the House of Milan” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogue_(dance)).
Paris is Burning
To learn more about voguing, you should definitely watch the movie Paris is Burning. Its a documentary (I know, boring) and in the end you want to try the dance moves yourself or check out a ball late at night.
Here is a synopsis: “Paris Is Burning is a 1990 documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the poor, African American and Latino gay and transgendered community involved in it. Many consider Paris Is Burning to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, as well as a thoughtful exploration of race, class, and gender in America”
While I was in Philadelphia, I went to a glbtq youth center and saw kids practicing for a ball. It made me happy because I knew what it meant. A Ball was created and has survived as an outlet, a dance outlet, for people to survive through homophobia, racism, and poverty. I knew how it felt because dancing is when I can forget, feel like I am above, in ecstacy. Voguing is both a legacy and a party.