Pushed right out into people’s faces back in 1990 (and hinted at in 1989 when she performed ‘Express Yourself’ at The VMA’s that year), Madonna took the wildly and intentionally arrogant and in your face style of dancing called “Voguing” and made it a household name. Soon people were ‘voguing’ at weddings and proms, but few actually knew its origin. The 70s and 80s gave birth to many a trend and quite a significant number of various types of escapism too. Consecrated in the gay latin and black nightlife ballroom scene from the late 60s and 70s, the dance has remained sacred and somewhat underground despite
all the attention it has gotten throughout the years and immortalized in celluloid in the form of a documentary called ‘Paris Is Burning’. The film is described as ‘a chronicle of New York’s drag scene in the 1980s, focusing on balls, voguing and the ambitions and dreams of those who gave the era its warmth and vitality.’
What is Vogue? Starting out as “Performance”, the dance took on the name “Vogue” during the late 70’s, when practitioners started borrowing ideas from the more extreme photo layouts of current fashion magazines. Over the years, influence from other creative sources have been incorporated, including fan dancing and pantomime.Sometimes the use of a prop is encouraged, to show ones dexterity. The Legendary House of Dupree was known for performing with chairs, batons, swords, you name it. Therefore, the skill of the voguer is measured by how well these elements are melded into one spontaneous performance. This process is ongoing, lending to the dance’s metamorphic nature. Read more…
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 and Latino Americans in the early 1960s. It was originally called “presentation” and later “performance”. Over the years, the dance evolved into the more intricate and illusory 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 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.
It should be noted that the terms “Old Way” and “New Way” are generational. Earlier generations called the style of voguing the generation b
efore them practiced “old way”. Voguers, therefore, reuse these terms to refer to the evolutionary changes of the dance tha
t 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 (the spelling being an English appropriation to fr. femme, feminine) is fluidity at its most extreme with exaggerated feminine movements influenced by ballet and modern dance. Styles of Vogue Fem performance range from Dramatics (which emphasizes stunts, tricks, and speed) to Soft and Cunt (which emphasizes a graceful, beautiful, easy flow). There are five elements of Vogue Fem: hand performance, catwalk, duckwalk, floor performance, and spins and dips. 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. The dip is the fall, drop, or descent backward onto one’s back with one’s leg folded underneath. Mainstream dance forms popularized the dip, which is occasionally called the “death drop” when done in dramatics style. Due to popular media, the dip is sometimes incorrectly termed the “5000”, “shablam”, and “shabam”; such misnomers likely stem from older commentators chanting the word “shawam” when a voguer successfully completed a dip.
Here are various videos to see some hardcore Voguing in action!
From 1990 all the way to 2013, Vogue Dance has been teased and flirted with in pop music from Jody Watley, Crystal Waters, Madonna to Icona Pop. Here are the videos of the two latter artists, each much more sleek and stylized than the next. Madonna gave us “Vogue”, with the help of David Fincher and an army of fantastic dancers, and ventured to recreate images of old Hollywood glamour and in your face, brazen sexuality while Icona Pop, with the help of Absolut Vodka and some of the greatest vogue masters , decided to create a mini documentary wrapped around their new party hit song “All Night” featuring a ferocious appearance by Princess Lockerooo who performed atop Ovation TV’s “Stand For The Arts” float in this year’s parade as well as a stunning performance on stage at DanceFest in Tompkins Square Park. Click here to learn about her “ALL NIGHT BALL” at Lucky Cheng’s on Sunday, October 27th. It will be one of our Dance Parade socials and we hope to see you on the dance floor!
…strike a pose