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A dancer voguing during a performance
Vogue, or voguing, is a highly stylized, modern house dance that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1980s. It gained mainstream exposure when it was featured in Madonna's song and video "Vogue" (1990), and when showcased in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning (which went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival). After the new millennium, Vogue returned to mainstream attention when the dance group Vogue Evolution competed on the fourth season of America's Best Dance Crew.
Inspired by Vogue magazine, voguing is characterized by model-like poses integrated with angular, linear, and rigid arm, leg, and body movements. This style of dance arose from Harlem ballrooms by African Americans in the early 1960s. It was originally called "presentation" and later "performance". Over the years, the dance evolved into the more intricate and [clarification needed] form that is now called "vogue". Voguing is continually developed further as an established dance form that is practiced in the gay ballroom scene and clubs in major cities throughout the United States—mainly New York City.
Formal competitions occur in the form of balls held by "houses"—family-like collectives of LGBT dancers and performers. Some legendary houses include the House of Garcon, the House of Icon, the House of Khanh, the House of Evisu, the House of Karan, the House of Mizrahi, the House of Xtravaganza, the House of Ebony, the House of Revlon, the House of Prodigy, the House of Escada, the House of Omni, the House of Princess, the House of Aviance, the House of Legacy, the House of Milan, the House of Infiniti, the House of Pend'avis, the House of LaBeija, the House of McQueen, the House of Ninja, the House of Suarez and the House of Andromeda, among others ("Legendary" in ballroom terms refers to a house that has been "serving", that is, walking or competing on the runway, for twenty years or more). The House of Ninja was founded by Willi Ninja, who is considered the godfather of voguing. Members of a house are called "children". Sometimes children legally change their last name to show their affiliation with the house to which they belong.
There are currently three distinct styles of vogue: Old Way (pre-1990); New Way (post-1990); and Vogue Fem (circa 1995). Although Vogue Fem has been used in the ballroom scene as a catch-all phrase for overtly effeminate Voguing as far back as the 1960s, as a recognizable style of Voguing, it only came into its own around the mid-1990s. Other styles of voguing include hand gestures and dramatics, although they are also referred to as part of Vogue Fem.
It should be noted that the terms "Old Way" and "New Way" are generational. Earlier generations called the style of voguing the generation before them practiced "old way". Voguers, therefore, reuse these terms to refer to the evolutionary changes of the dance that are observable almost every ten years. Ten years from now, today's "new way" will likely be deemed the "old way".
Old way is characterized by the formation of lines, symmetry, and precision in the execution of formations with graceful, fluid-like action. Egyptian hieroglyphs and fashion poses serve as the original inspirations for old way voguing. In its purest, historical form, old way vogue is a duel between two rivals. Traditionally, old way rules dictated that one rival must "pin" the other to win the contest. Pinning involved the trapping of an opponent so that he or she could not execute any movements while the adversary was still in motion (usually voguing movements with the arms and hands called "hand performance" while the opponent was "pinned" against the floor doing "floor exercises" or against a wall).
New way is characterized by rigid movements coupled with "clicks" (limb contortions at the joints) and "arms control" (hand and wrist illusions, which sometimes includes tutting and locking). New way can also be described as a modified form of mime in which imaginary geometric shapes, such as a box, are introduced during motion and moved progressively around the dancer's body to display the dancer's dexterity and memory. New way involves incredible flexibility.
Vogue Fem ("Fem" is derived from the French word femme, meaning "woman") is fluidity at its most extreme with exaggerated feminine movements influenced by ballet, jazz and modern dance. Styles of Vogue Fem performance range from Dramatics (which emphasizes stunts, tricks, and speed) to Soft (which emphasizes a graceful, beautiful, easy flow and flow continuations between the five elements). There are five elements of Vogue Fem: hand performance, catwalk, duckwalk, floor performance, and dips & drops (although some non-official performances may count spins as one of the elements, in professional Vogueing battles and displays, the performer is judged on the five original elements of Vogue). When competing in a Vogue Fem battle, contestants should showcase all five elements in an entertaining fashion.
Hand performance refers to the illusions and movements of the arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. The catwalk is the upright sashaying in a linear fashion. The duckwalk refers to the crouched, squatted, foot-kicking and scooting movements requiring balance on the balls of the feet. Floor performance refers to the movements done on the floor using primarily the legs, knees, and back. Dramatic dips are executed by the performer lifting and bending a single leg (usually standing on the toe with the other) and, in rapid succession, lowering their body to the ground with minimal support to display their leg strength (the performer stands to start with). Soft Dips are essentially broken down, it is usually executed following a spin or duck walk and is rarely seen executed standing up. The dip is almost always supported with one or both arms to soften the fall.
Runway is one of the vogue styles based on the runway walks of models, usually with a requested outfit or color.
Regional scenes and chapters
The ballroom scene has evolved into a national underground dancesport with major balls being held in different regions. New York State continues to be the mecca of the ballroom scene as well as the dance style, but regional voguing "capitals" exist—Chicago and Detroit for the Midwest. Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Miami for the South. Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the West Coast. Baltimore, D.C, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh. and Virginia for the East Coast.
The ballroom community and dance style has also gained recognition from other countries where they practice the dance and participate and hold their own balls. Cities and countries such as Helsinki, Finland, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Canada and Mexico are among the few new comers in the era vogue. In London's SoHo neighborhood, a Vogue battle lifted the spirits of those present for a June 13, 2016, street vigil honoring victims of a recent massacre in Orlando, Florida.
Many performers, have used vogue-style dance as a part of their routines. British singer FKA twigs and Swedish singer Hanna Lindblad extensively feature voguing in their music videos and live performance. respectively. The transgender member of Vogue Evolution, Leiomy Maldonado, is responsible for creating and popularizing her signature voguing move, the Leiomy Lolly. The Leiomy Lolly is featured in Britney Spears' video for "If U Seek Amy", in Beyoncé and Lady Gaga's video for "Telephone", and in a Dance Central routine to the song "Lapdance". Leiomy can be seen voguing in Willow Smith's video for "Whip My Hair".
Several music videos quickly showcase the dip: Lil Mama and Chris Brown's video for "Shawty Get Loose", Chris Brown's video for "Kiss Kiss", Christina Milian's video for "Dip It Low", Beyoncé's video for "Get Me Bodied",Michael Jackson's "Remember the time", Yelle's video for "Complètement fou" and Kat DeLuna's video for "Drop It Low".
Voguing has also made appearances in film, television, and digital media. The masquerade ball scene in the 2004 film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera features the dance style. Moreover, popular YouTube videos and channels, such as BallroomThrowbacks, JackMizrahi, and TheLunaShowNY, frequently feature voguing performances.
In May 2013, South Korean boyband Shinhwa featured the dance style in their lead track "This Love" from The Classic album. In the same year Swedish synthpop duo Icona Pop released a music video for their single "All Night", which has a Paris is Burning inspired theme with vogue battles. The single can be found on the album "This Is... Icona Pop". The dance can also be seen in Gorgon City's music video for their single Go All Night.
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