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BALLROOM CULTURE

 

Ballroom Scene: Place to Grow and Come to Life

Ballroom Culture Explained

Life After Paris is Burning: Underground Ballroom Culture

TED Talk: Ballroom Culture and the Language of Vogue

Top Ten Memorable Pose Moments

Madonna: Vogue

History of NYC's Underground Ballroom Subculture

BBC: How Drag Balls Went Mainstream

MJ Rodriguez Explains Underground Ballroom Culture

Tutorial: Five Elements of Vogue

Everything You Need to Know About the Ballroom Scene
Rolling Stone: Brief History of Ball Culture

 

Underground Ballroom Community
 

The "underground ballroom culture" is referred to by several different terms, including ball culture, ballroom scene, drag ball culture, and house ballroom community. You might even hear the term "kiki culture." All these terms describe a young African-American and Latin American underground LGBTQ (trans, drag) subculture that originated in New York City, in which people "walk" (compete) for trophies, prizes, and glory at events known as balls. Ball culture consists of events that mix performance, dance, lip-syncing, and modeling. Events are divided into various categories, and participants compete for prizes and trophies. As a countercultural phenomenon, ball culture is rooted in necessity and defiance. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, members of the underground LGBTQ community in large cities began to organize masquerade balls known as "drags" in defiance of laws which banned individuals from wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender.

 



Strike a pose! Attendees dance, vogue, walk, pose, and support one another in one or more of the numerous drag and performance competition categories. Categories are designed to simultaneously epitomize and satirize various genders and social classes, while also offering an escape from reality. The culture extends beyond the extravagant events as many participants in ball culture also belong to groups known as "houses", a longstanding tradition in LGBTQ communities, and racial minorities, where chosen families of friends live in households together, forming relationships and community to replace families of origin from which they may be estranged.

 

Everything You Need to Know About the Ballroom Scene

Pose: Identity, Family, Community (Season 1)
Info: Drag Queens

Matt Baume: Hidden History of Paris is Burning

Ballroom Scene: Place to Grow and Come to Life

My House: American Realness

Butch Queen Vogue Fem at Hit Machine Ball

NPR: New York's Drag Ball Scene Strikes a Pose

Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore: Pose and Ballroom Culture

Kiki Ballroom Scene: Queer Kids of Color Being Themselves

Info: LGBTQ Slang

Matt Baume: Hidden History of NYC's Drag Balls

Legendary: Leiomy Maldonado and Dashaun Wesley Vogue Dance

Pose Stars Talk Representation and Ballroom Culture

Ballroom Culture Explained

Pose: Identity, Family, Community (Season 2)

Madonna: Vogue

Life After Paris is Burning: Underground Ballroom Culture

TED Talk: Ballroom Culture and the Language of Vogue

Info: Queer People of Color

Top Ten Memorable Pose Moments

Reconstructing Ballroom History: Generations of Change

MJ Rodriguez Explains Underground Ballroom Culture

Esquire Photos: Dramatic Rise of Ballroom and Drag Culture

Voguing with Kia LaBeija: Drafted

 

"Strangest and gaudiest of all Harlem spectacles in the 1920s, and still the strangest and gaudiest, is the annual Hamilton Club Lodge Ball at Rockland Palace Casino. I once attended as a guest of A'Lelia Walker. It is the ball where men dress as women and women dress as men. During the height of the New Negro era and the tourist invasion of Harlem, it was fashionable for the intelligentsia and social leaders of both Harlem and the downtown area to occupy boxes at this ball and look down from above at the queerly assorted throng on the dancing floor, males in flowing gowns and feathered headdresses and females in tuxedoes and box-back suits."

-Langston Hughes

 

 

Ballroom Culture Influence


The most notable influence of ball culture on mainstream society is voguing, a dance style originating in Harlem ballrooms during the latter half of the 20th century and appropriated in the video for Madonna's "Vogue", released in 1990 (one year before the documentary Paris Is Burning). The dance group Vogue Evolution, from America's Best Dance Crew, has again sparked interest in voguing.

Voguing started in Drag Balls held by the queer community of color. The competitions were divided up into Houses that then competed in different categories, in which one of the categories was voguing. Named after Vogue magazine, voguing required dancers to mirror the poses held by models, with emphasis placed on arm and hand movements. Dancers would play out elaborate scenes such as applying makeup or taking phone calls while dancing down the catwalk. Dancer and choreographer Willi Ninja has been recognized as the "Grandfather of Vogue" and the dance, as well as Ninja himself, were covered in the documentary Paris is Burning.

Modern homage to the underground ballroom culture is not so "underground." RuPaul's Drag Race, Pose, My House, and Legendary are examples of current television series that draw heavily on the legacy of the ballroom culture, including the language, common themes, and the details of the competition. These TV programs have done a lot to raise awareness of the ballroom culture of the past and continue that tradition today.

 

 

The 2016 independent documentary film Kiki, which premiered Sundance Film Festival, takes place in New York City, and focuses on the drag and voguing scene, surveys the lives of LGBTQ youth of color at a time when Black Lives Matter and trans rights are making front-page headlines. The film is considered an unofficial sequel to the influential 1990 film Paris Is Burning.
 

The legacy of ballroom culture on current drag is extensive. Language that grew out of it is common among the LGBTQ community as a whole. Such as terms "reading" and "shade" mean insults used in battles of wit and "spilling tea" means gossiping. The use of categories and judging can be seen on popular reality TV programs such as RuPaul's Drag Race. The structure of Houses is widely used among drag queens today, as well as associated notions of community and family. Attitudes of defiance and subversion, that were necessary for black, Latino, queer, and trans participants, as they navigated discrimination, exclusion, and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic, form an essential part of drag culture as a whole.

 

Ballroom Culture: So Much More Than Voguing

Learn the 5 Elements of Voguing

History of NYC's Underground Ballroom Subculture

Info: Drag Queens

Reconstructing Ballroom History: Generations of Change

Dominique Jackson: HRC National Dinner

Legendary: Season Premiere, Full Episode

MJ Rodriguez Explains Underground Ballroom Culture

Stars of Pose: How to Sell the Face

Info: Transgender

TED Talk: Ballroom Culture and the Language of Vogue

My House: Guns and Roses

Tutorial: Five Elements of Vogue

Scissor Sisters: Let's Have a Kiki

Top Ten Memorable Pose Moments

Butch Queen Vogue Fem at Hit Machine Ball

Kiki Ballroom Scene: Important As Ever

Rolling Stone: Brief History of Ball Culture

Madonna: Vogue

Matt Baume: Hidden History of NYC's Drag Balls

Dominique Jackson: My Truth, My Story

BBC: How Drag Balls Went Mainstream

Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom

Voguing with Kia LaBeija: Drafted

Legendary: Leiomy Maldonado and Dashaun Wesley Vogue Dance

Matt Baume: Hidden History of Paris is Burning

Hit Machine Ball: Butch Queen Vogue Fem

Ballroom Scene: Place to Grow and Come to Life

Info: Queer People of Color

Vogue: Madonna Live at MTV Awards

 

 

 

Ballroom Culture Slang

 

--Read: To lecture or reprimand someone with mockery or a sharply worded barrage of painful truths about him or herself, especially in front of a crowd or audience. To highlight and exaggerate all of the flaws of a person, from their ridiculous clothes, to their flawed makeup and anything else the reader can come up with. It is a battle of wit, in which the winner is one who gets the crowd to laugh the most.

 

--Shade: Negative, disparaging, or backhanded remarks made to or about someone. Subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone.

 

--Voguing: Dance invented in 1970s Harlem and performed notably by Willi Ninja
--Walking: Competing or showing off to acquire the admiration of ball contestants
--Werk: Exclamatory phrase used to connote admiration and content with someone's actions
--Fierce: Similar to "werk," meaning something to admire and celebrate
--Butch Queen: Queer male
--Mother/House Mother: Matriarch of a house, often taking on a mentoring role for members of the house
--House: Group of individuals (often a chosen family) that compete in balls under the same name
--Chop: When the person competing is disqualified by one of the judges
--Legendary/Legend: Title added before an individual's name indicating prestige and years of hard work
--Iconic/Icon: Highest achievement in ballroom, indicates countless trophies, memorable moments

 

Ballroom Culture: So Much More Than Voguing

Madonna: Vogue

Learn the 5 Elements of Voguing

Info: Drag Queens

Matt Baume: Hidden History of Paris is Burning

NPR: New York's Drag Ball Scene Strikes a Pose

My House: Dance Music Sex Romance

Dominique Jackson: HRC National Dinner

Legendary: Season Premiere, Full Episode

MJ Rodriguez Explains Underground Ballroom Culture

Stars of Pose: How to Sell the Face

Info: Transgender

TED Talk: Ballroom Culture and the Language of Vogue

Top Ten Memorable Pose Moments

Dominique Jackson: My Truth, My Story

Glee and Sarah Jessica Parker: Let's Have a Kiki

Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom

Hit Machine Ball: Butch Queen Vogue Fem

Kiki Ballroom Scene: Important As Ever

My House: Female Figures

Esquire Photos: Dramatic Rise of Ballroom and Drag Culture

Ballroom Scene: Place to Grow and Come to Life

Info: Queer People of Color

 

 

Ballroom Competition Categories

 

--Vogue: Figure performance using vogue elements of hands, catwalk, duckwalk, floor performance, spins, dips
--Butch Queen (BQ) Realness: Ability to blend in with cisgender men
--Femme Queen (FQ) Realness: Ability to blend in with cisgender women
--Realness With a Twist (Twister): Ability to blend in with heterosexuals, then return to vogue like a femme queen
--Runway: Ability to walk like a supermodel.
--Bizarre: Creativity to design a costume based on a requested category
--Face: Judging a participant's facial structure, skin, teeth, make-up
--Sex Siren: Sex appeal and how they are able to persuade, tease, and titillate the judges
--Commentator: Allows aspiring emcees to showcase their ability to rap and rhyme over a beat
--Up in Pumps: Judging participants' ability to walk in high heels
--Hands Performance: Using hands to tell a story
--Best Dressed: Judging participant's ostentatious clothing
--Body: This category is about good body structure and someone who has a well defined body

 

Rolling Stone: Brief History of Ball Culture
Legendary: Leiomy Maldonado and Dashaun Wesley Vogue Dance

Everything You Need to Know About the Ballroom Scene

Matt Baume: Hidden History of NYC's Drag Balls

My House: Series Trailer

Matt Baume: Hidden History of Paris is Burning

Pose: Identity, Family, Community (Season 1)
History of NYC's Underground Ballroom Subculture

Ballroom Scene: Place to Grow and Come to Life

Madonna: Vogue

Reconstructing Ballroom History: Generations of Change

Info: Queer People of Color

Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore: Pose and Ballroom Culture

Kiki Ballroom Scene: Queer Kids of Color Being Themselves

Pose Stars Talk Representation and Ballroom Culture

Tutorial: Five Elements of Vogue

Ballroom Culture Explained

Pose: Identity, Family, Community (Season 2)

Life After Paris is Burning: Underground Ballroom Culture

Info: LGBTQ Slang

TED Talk: Ballroom Culture and the Language of Vogue

BBC: How Drag Balls Went Mainstream

My House: Old Way

Top Ten Memorable Pose Moments

MJ Rodriguez Explains Underground Ballroom Culture

Vogue: Madonna Live at MTV Awards

 

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