This blog series guides you through a brief history of ballroom culture and voguing. From the beginnings in New York to modern voguing and performance categories, Duane Nasis explores this dance culture.
By the 80s, aside from evolving to become a mecca for gay and trans People Of Colour, the ballroom scene in Harlem had developed it’s own unique set of performance conventions.
Participants would ‘walk’ in ‘categories’ along a makeshift runway and be scored out of ten by a panel of judges before competing simultaneously against each other in battles. To this day this pre-selection process is referred to in ballroom as ‘getting your tens’.
Within the balls, however, a new category began to emerge with a distinctly New York flavour. This category was initially referred to as ‘Performance’ or ‘Posing’ before adopting the catch all moniker by which it is known today: Voguing.
Developed by trans women within ballroom as a way to exaggerate their couture, it involved executing a lyrical series of fashion poses to express both their feminine identity and desire for opulence. This concept proved extremely popular amongst the politically & economically disenfranchised Black & Latino gay community, for whom the extravagance of prime-time television and fashion advertising seemed an unattainable dream.
Members of the London Ballroom Scene and friends will be performing at Friday Late Spectacular: Body Language on Friday 4 November.
Duane Nasis is an Old Way Voguer and Art Director, who creates and develops concepts for various moving image projects from stop-motion animation and commercials to music videos.
Featured Image: Tina Montana at the Avis Pendavis Ball, 1990. (Courtesy of Chantal Regnault.)