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Strike a pose: The international ballroom scene

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.

“I want to take voguing to Paris, and make the real Paris burn,” declared Willi Ninja in 1990’s ‘Paris is Burning’. Almost a generation later and Paris has one of Europe’s most vibrant and authoritative ballroom scenes cultivated and nourished from the start by Lasseindra Ninja.

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Strike a pose: UK Vogue

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.

When voguing came to the UK it was entering an environment with its own multifaceted history of subversive cultural practices. From cabaret and pantomime to glam rock and punk, Britain’s relative acceptance of queerness meant that social tensions tended towards lines of class rather than race, which was crucial to the DNA of New York ballroom.

However, a direct link between subversive youth culture and New York ballroom was forged when iconoclast Malcolm McLaren, an early adopter of hip-hop and Chicago House, teamed with Willi Ninja on the track ‘Deep in Vogue’ released in 1989 (a year before Madonna’s infamous ‘Vogue’).

By this point early vogue houses in the UK had already formed by professional dancers who travelled extensively to and from New York, but who were consigned to perform in the exclusive arena of private events and fashion shows rather than evolving within the clubs, which hindered growth.

Over two decades after the release of ‘Deep in Vogue’ there is now a ballroom culture developing in London rooted in club culture and nourished by UK & European chapters of iconic New York Houses such as Kahn, Lanvin, Milan, Mizrahi, Ninja, Revlon, UltraOmni, and Magnifique.

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: House of Child, Pam Hogg ‘School for Scandal’ fashion show c. early 90s

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Strike a pose: Vogue’s emergence

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.

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Strike a pose: The beginnings of voguing

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.

The origins of ballroom culture and voguing as it is known today can be traced back to early twentieth century New York, post-depression and post-prohibition.

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Animating the body

We recently held a weekend of hands-on creative activities and thoughtful conversations exploring how we communicate through posture, gesture and facial expression. One of these activities included re-animating a film from Wellcome’s archive of moving images, featuring a range of body language. Dan Brown from Mash Cinema tells us more. 

When I was asked to develop a drop-in activity for the Bloomsbury Festival ‘Speaking With Your Body‘ weekend, it didn’t take me long to decide on how it might work. The process of rotoscoping came to mind, as it’s one that many people can get involved in and would allow for a highly collaborative outcome.

The idea

Rotoscoping has been around since about 1915 and was said to be first used by Max Fleischer on his animated series Out Of The Inkwell. Fleischer projected footage of his brother on to frosted glass and drew around the image frame by frame, creating an animation that was much smoother and moved in a more human way. Continue reading

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A drop in the ocean: The first half hour

‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. This blog series intends to showcase as many different voices and perspectives from people with lived experience of mental ill health and explore their ideas of personal asylum.

This post is from Matthew, a resident of Bethlem Royal Hospital and an artist showing work in Bethlem Gallery’s ‘Reclaiming Asylum’ exhibition. 

Background

 

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Matthew’s sculptural model of the grounds at Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Matthew has built up a practice of walking the site over several years, exploring the huge grounds as part of his daily routine. Through his physical exploration of the grounds, he uncovers hidden objects and remnants of past life. In ‘Reclaiming Asylum’, Matthew presents a sculptural map of the Bethlem Royal Hospital from his own perspective that includes areas of refuge, relaxation and opportunities for creative practice.

Over the course of the exhibition, Matthew will be adding various elements to the map that draw on his detailed knowledge of the grounds, it’s wildlife and fauna. The ongoing additions will also explore some of his ideas for the potential of the grounds and how they can be utilised artistically and therapeutically. Over to Matthew.

I have been here at the Bethlem Royal Hospital for over five years now, but it seems only a short time.

After waiting 15 months for ground leave, the first half hour was the most amazing and worthwhile, as I had waited for over 10 years just to touch a tree, feel the bark, wonder at its branches that seemed to be gently waving their leaves at me in the breeze. And to walk on grass with moss mixed in making it feel nice and springy. To be able to walk in a straight line for more than 25 meters.

For now the grounds are almost my home as l spend more time in them than anywhere else. Every time that I go onto the grounds there is always something different to see, as the seasons are forever changing, bringing untold mysteries; the wind answers my lost thoughts, emotions and feelings.

Though the squirrels can’t talk, they’re good to talk to. Sometimes the birds come and sit by me and sing a tune to me. Foxes come and play within sight of me as if I was just part of the scenery.

You could spend hours just sitting under a tree and watching the clouds drift past and not see a single person. And, if you were to feel down, there are always dog walkers around, for just to see a dog wagging its tail is sure to bring a smile to you.

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A blackberry picking walk, by Matthew.

As autumn draws slowly upon us we see the grounds change into a magical land with a host of colours from the trees: red, orange, yellow and brown. The leaves, when the weather becomes colder, become lovely and crunchy under foot.

The Engine, paint on burnt out car found in the grounds.

The Engine, paint on burnt out car found in the grounds, by Matthew.

Some people may find autumn a bit disconcerting or even depressing, but I find the grounds to be quite wonderful and it becomes more still and quiet with all the leaves off the trees. To think that all those leaves have come from that tree…and every year forever more. The hedgehog will use some of the leaves to wrap itself up in a ball along with bits of dried grass, tucked up under some old logs with some woodlice for company. The badger will also collect some; the squirrels will run and jump around and collect acorns and sweet chestnuts to hide in so many places.

When the trees have lost their leaves you rediscover some of the grounds; you can see some of its hidden aspects. Remains of old buildings, bits of old fence, old bits of furniture, the old bicycle frame that has been hidden from view, and old tins.

In one area of the grounds I have located the remains of the general tip for the original estate house. Where there are old Oyster shells, champagne flutes, bits of old pottery and old style milk bottles.

When winter sets in, we welcome the return of one of the marvellous streams that bubbles up (which right now is just a dust and sandy pit). It is so nice to take some time to watch it slowly bubble and gurgle its way up and create its own way into the larger stream. And following one of these little tiny streams through the undergrowth can feel like you are truly somewhere else.

You could go and stand on the same spot every day for a year and be sure to see something totally different each time. As the weather is forever changing, likewise the seasons are too.

As the nights draw in and with twilight coming earlier, there is an increasing chance of seeing a badger around 16.30, ambling along from bush to bush on the daily quest for earthworms and woodlice.

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Matthew spots a badger on the grounds.

Matthew conducts informal research and initiates ongoing dialogues and leads public walks around the site with a focus on the themes he has researched.

Bedlam: the asylum and beyond‘ is on at Wellcome Collection until 15 January 2017 and ‘Reclaiming Asylum‘ is on at Bethlem Gallery until 11 November 2016.

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A drop in the ocean: Karim Harvey

‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. This blog series intends to showcase as many different voices and perspectives from people with lived experience of mental ill health and explore their ideas of personal asylum.

This post is from Karim Harvey, an accomplished poet whose writing practice, in his own words, “heeds the decline of moral ambition, isolation and creative inclusion.”

Nearly forty years ago I spent time in an old asylum. The revolving door syndrome ensued. There was sparing hope for my condition, and enforced medication. The poem below relates to little wonder and physical confinement. The reality, the escape through the mind. And how recovery through the mental health maze can happen. Asking questions, still having the ability to dream. Continue reading