This is the in every ball there are many different categories to compete in. A part from the dance formes like « Old way », « New way » and « Fem Vogue » for example, there are different types of Runway categories: Realness, Female figure and All American to name a few.
Within Realness there are different themes to compete in from « business man » to « school boy » and « supermodel ». When you enter the Realness category you are not just supposed to imitate a persona you are supposed to be it, an act that put your interpretation skills and sense of style to the test.
For a couple of minutes on the catwalk back in the underground scene during the 80ies this was an important part of the scene since one could be a part of a life that was unaccessible outside the doors of the ball. If needed clothes and outfits that were too expensive to buy were stolen.
The « houses » within the community became the new families of young gay guys who sometimes were homeless and cut off from their original families. The « father » and the « mother » of each house guided their « children » in life as well as in voguing battles where they competed in the name of the house.
House of Labeija, House of Yves Saint Laurent, House of Extravaganza, the houses were inspired by the big fashion houses. The balls, the community and the houses still exist. The scene has expanded and opened up and it is not seen only as a gay community scene today.
Trained dancers all over the world are becoming part of the scene and compete, at least in the bigger balls.
Willi Ninja and the House of Ninja
There are many great names to be remembered. One of them is Willi Ninja the founder and the original « mother » of the The Legendary House of Ninja, who died in the suits of AIDS in 2006. Willi was a naturally talented dancer and wanted to reach out beyond the community and spread and develope voguing as a dance and art form, which he also did.
His name was recognized by media and Voguing was featured in collaboration with TV, fashion and music. Today members of The Legendary House of Ninja, as well as members from other houses, are travelling the world within the dance scene spreading the knowledge of the dance and recruting members in different countries.
Going to a voguing club or ball today the scene is still dominated by a gay and transexual crowd. Last time I went to a more underground ball someone asked me if I was « real ». Me and my girlfriend were the only « real » girls there but the place was full of beautiful women along with gay guys and very masculin thugs.
To the rythm of the MC’s almost monotonic way of repeting words and expressions the voguing dancers throw themselves out on the dancefloor with a diva-like confidence. It is all about outshining your component and giving shade*. As Benny Ninja, the present « father » of The Legendary House of Ninja, once said to me, voguing is making the music three dimensional. As a voguing dancer on that dance floor you love and accept what you got and then you work it.
* To give shade is an attitude which is a diva-like-way of showing your superiorness. Almost like saying « I don’t have to tell you you’re ugly cause you already know you’re ugly ».
For more pictures go to Plazavkinna
A tips from my Old way voguing teacher, Cesar Valentino:
An upcoming star, Javier Ninja, part of a younger generation of The Legendary House of Ninja and has been dancing with Madonna:
Paris is burning is probably the most famous documentury about Voguing.
Also read Voguing and the house ballroom scene of NYC 1989-92
Thank you to amazing dancer and friend Anna Ninja-the fact checker.
Texts and photos by Karolina Brock
More infos on Karolina Brock here
Two of the guest at New York Voguing club Escuelita
When i was in New-York city this summer i met my dear friend Karolina (dancer and designer), the one who brought me in this club. We were talking about a book dedicated to voguing: « Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York ». Completely into street dancing Karolina gave me the whole story.
Fascinated i ask her to write a article about this moment of street culture, this a double post about it.
I guess it is fair to say that people in general connect Vogue or Voguing with Madonna and her song « Vogue » from the beginning of the 90’s. What Madonna did and still does is what might be her greatest skill; she highlighted an underground movement and showed it to the world. But she never was and probably never aimed to be part of these underground communities she « discovered ».
The last past years Voguing has gone through a revival at least when it comes to the fashion and dance scene. It is part of our time to commercialize underground creativity and it is fashion forward to be inspired by it. When someone like Rick Owens plays typical « voguing music » by underground artist Zebra Katz at his show (AW12) it is automatically accepted, hyped and spread by the fashion world, as well as by other medias.
The voguing scene on the other hand is not really affected by this. It has been around since the 70’s with roots that goes back almost hundred years in time. Voguing developed in a New York African American and Hispanic gay community and was a form of social survival in a society one felt excluded from. The voguing community is playing with set normes and our society’s stereotypes and codes. It has its own social structures and it is within the community its members mainly want to win respect, prestige and climb the latter, be legendary!
World famous Waacking dancer Dallace Zeigler visited Escuelita, danced and won a voguing battle for the first time in her 30 something long career
Drag queen ballrooms (balls) existed in New York already in the 1920’s. It was about dressing up in extravagant outfits and show it off. In the 70’s and 80’s this evolved into what we today call Voguing. This happened in the form of battles where the main goal was to win Grand prize. Model poses were added to the runway walk and influenced by martial arts and acrobatic movements voguing started to develop in different dance forms and runway styles.
In the legend category at Voguing club Escuelita only people who have been recognized as legends can compete
It was a quite cruel and hard enviroment where this took place and the battles were sometimes a way of picking a fight on the dance floor. It happened that people brought weapon to be able to defend themselves. The balls or battles often started in the early hours of the morning when the « girls » got off work, prostitution was quite common, and continued into the day after. The battles were all about reputation but also about survival since there was prize money involved.
Text and photos by Karolina Brock
More info about Karolina Brock here
To be continued
Some pictures of The world of super heroes ball a vogue ball organised by François Chaignaud and Cecilia Bengolea at la Ménagerie de verre.
Back in the nineties last night at La Ménagerie de verre when i was wearing flashy outfits influenced by house music and the voguing.
But everything partially started in the seventies in the ballrooms of New York city among Afro-American, Hispanic, gays, lesbians, and transgender communities.
Of course the genre was popularized by Madonna’s song « Vogue » in 1990, but it is interesting to find the influence of voguing from artists such as Prince or even Siouxsie (i remember her strike the pose during live shows) at the nineties. It’s also easy to imagine a designer like Jean Paul Gaultier being more or less a part of this community.
Underground culture: Poses from fashion magazines and martial arts, DIY clothes and drama !
Left: François Chaignaud
Strike the pose !
Does this girl from midtown district always match her outfits with her sneakers before going to the gym (honestly who doesn’t do it?)?
Friends and people i met in New York City.
cool, des amis rad, des copines qui ont le swag et des êtres étranges rencontrés à New-York…
Karolina Brock, swag girl from Sweden, dancer, journalist and fashion designer (website), now living in Big Apple.