performance at National Museum of African Art, 2016
|Genre||House dance, Ball Culture|
|Origin||Harlem, New York, United States|
Vogue, or voguing, is a highly stylized, modern house dance originating in the late 1980s that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. 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). In its modern form, this dance has become a global phenomenon that continues to evolve both stylistically and demographically.
Inspired by the style of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs and the famous images of models in Vogue magazine, voguing is characterized by striking a series of poses as if one is modeling for a photo shoot. Arm and leg movements are angular, linear, rigid, and move swiftly from one static position to another. This style of dance arose from Harlem ballroom cultures, as danced by African-American and Latino drag queens and gay men, from the early 1960s through the 1980s. Dance competitions often involved throwing "shade," or subtle insults directed at one another in order to impress the judges and the audience. The competition style was originally called "presentation" and later "performance." Over the years, the dance evolved into the more intricate and acrobatic form that is now called "vogue".
The precise origins of voguing are disputed. Although many cite the story in which Paris Dupree takes out a Vogue magazine and mimics the poses to the beat of the music (and other queens subsequently followed), there are other accounts that note voguing may have originated from black gay prison inmates at Rikers Island, performed for the attention of other men as well as throwing shade. Voguing is continually being developed further as an established dance form that is practiced in the Black and Latino gay ballroom scene, and clubs in major cities throughout the United States and around the globe — mainly New York City and Paris.
There are currently three distinct styles of vogue: Old Way (pre-1990); New Way (post-1990); and Vogue Fem (circa 1995).
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 performances range from Dramatics (which emphasizes stunts, tricks, and speed) to Soft (which emphasizes a graceful, beautiful, and easy flow continuations between the five elements). There are currently five elements of Vogue Fem:
- Duckwalk: The duck walk receives its name from the appearance the name references (a duck walking) that involves squatting on your heels and kicking your feet out as you move forward on the beat.
- Catwalk: Catwalking is an exaggerated feminine walk where the legs are crossed over each other, the hips are thrust from side to side, and the hands are thrown forward in opposition to the legs.
- Hands: In performance, the hands of the performer often told a story. This is the component of performing used to throw shade. For example, miming an expression of horror at the way the opponents face looks.
- Floorwork: This component demonstrates the competitors' sensuality as they roll, twist, and otherwise move on the ground in such a way as to capture the attention of the judges.
- Spins and Dips: This is the showiest component of vogue. These are the turns on beat, and the drops to the floor. A spin or dip is only done correctly when executed with the climax happening on the beat.
Scenes and chapters
The ballroom scene has evolved into a national and international underground dancesport with major balls and dance competitions being held in different regions of the United States and around the world. 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.
International cities in Western Europe (the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Sweden), Eastern Europe, Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica) and Asia Pacific (Japan and New Zealand) have sprouted and held competitions inspired by voguing from the original balls of New York City.
Several notable pop celebrities and artists were influenced by Voguing. Madonna, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Willow Smith, FKA Twigs, Ariana Grande, and Azealia Banks have all taken inspiration from voguing from dances of past and contemporary voguers, while also incorporating the beats traditionally attached to the dance.
One of the most recent influences of voguing (and Ball culture) comes from the documentary film Kiki, in which contemporary Balls and Voguing is represented through the scenes and styles that now exist.
When the dance culture of New York travelled to Berlin, many people went to clubs to show off their best moves. At a time when discrimination was very severe especially for those exploring their identities, these clubs offered people a space to avoid those struggles. People focused on their dance and outdoing their peers and competitors rather than society's rejection of minority groups. The House of Melody was the first German voguing house. It brought together people passionate for voguing. They emphasized ignoring people's backgrounds and instead understanding everyone's shared belief in love for all. These clubs were important for people who might have been looking for a place to escape the challenges that they faced on the streets or at home. The empowerment that was generated in these spaces transferred into contributing to a broader movement that would tend to the struggles of minorities in Germany.
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- Media related to Vogue (dance) at Wikimedia Commons