Deep In Vogue: an introduction to ballroom culture and modern voguing


Throwing down at Vogue Knights, NYC
 
I have been a bit slack with my Notes column of late, and here’s the reason why.

I love voguing (and you should know this by now.) I love the music, the dancing, the style, the language, the queens (both butch and femme), the battling, the videos, the full length films, the drama, the energy, the past, the present and the future. Voguing and Ballroom culture a very significant and valuable part of the LGBT landscape, the serves to teach children self-respect and personal growth, and gives them a space to be accepted, and to thrive, in.

I love voguing so much that I have written a in-depth introduction to the culture for Boing Boing. Funny as it may seem, this wasn’t an easy piece for me to write—I started and scrapped 3 drafts, which just kept getting longer and longer—but I am happy with this one. There’s quite a lot of material that I just didn’t have the space to include in this piece, and my thoughts are now quite seriously turning towards a book documenting the culture. It really is that rich.

Like hip hop, ballroom encompasses many different elements of artistic expression, from music and language to clothes and design, and, of course, dance. It deals directly with some of society’s most controversial issues, namely sexuality, race, class, gender roles and expression, beauty modes, self-definition and competition. It doesn’t do this in the polemical style we may be used to from punk and political hip-hop, however, where topics are theorised and discussed. In ballroom these issues are lived and experienced, as a vast number of those taking part in this underground scene are transgender, working class, people of colour.

Ballroom includes society’s most marginalised: minorities within minorities within minorities, for whom voguing and ballroom culture is an important resource. In a world where they have been rejected, ballroom not only accepts these people for who they are, it celebrates them, in a variety of unique and different categories. The competitive, prize-winning aspect of ballroom gives some participants a sense of worth lacking in the “real” world (not to mention money), and the familial structure of the “houses”—mother, father, sister, brother—often acts as a real surrogate, as many in this world have been disowned by their biological families.

Here, voguing is not just a dance, and ballroom is not just a genre. It’s a way of life that brings pride, peer recognition and self-respect. The genre of music is one thing, but the culture which surrounds it is another; and both are intricately tied into one another.

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To quote the late, great Willi Ninja, who is perhaps the greatest voguer the world has yet seen, voguing is like a challenge dance: instead of fighting you take it out on the dancefloor. Depending on who you ask, this uniquely stylised dance form arose either amongst the inmates of Ryker’s Island, or at gay Harlem dance parties in the sixties (it’s most probably a mixture of both). Voguing got its name from Vogue magazine, as the competing dancers would flip to pictures of models posing, and imitate them, trying to outdo each other in the process. As it developed the dancers became quicker and more agile, and incorporated other forms of dance such as waacking (high speed arm movements and hand gestures) and body popping (though some say that voguing actually pre-dates popping, and was itself an influence on the original b-boys). Fast forward to 2013 and voguing has come a long way, progressing through the styles of old way, new way, femme and dramatics, to today’s almost hyperactive, turbocharged version of the dance. Although key elements of old way voguing remain (posing, “face”), a much more frantic and stylised choreography takes precedence, with signature moves such as the dip (when a dancer falls flat on their back), the duck walk and hair control (using long hair as stylistic element of the dance, in essence whipping it back and forth).

There’s more to vogue culture than just the dancing and the dressing up, and if you have seen Paris Is Burning you only know the very tip of this glittering iceberg. If you want to know more, read the rest of Welcome to the Ballroom, where Voguing is always in style here.

To accompany the piece, here is a 13 minute dj mix I put together of “cunt” tracks, “cunt” meaning “fabulous” in the world of Ballroom. Yes, the c-bomb gets dropped quite a lot in this mix, so you’re getting a warning: it’s NSFW!

CVNT TR4XXX 13min Cunty Minimix for #FEELINGS
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Boing Boing’s Mind Blowing Movies series: ‘What’s New Pussycat?’


 
Here’s my short piece for Boing Boing’s Mind Blowing Movies series:

After reading over the other entries in Boing Boing’s Mind Blowing Movies series, I couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed that I was unable to think of even a single film that I felt had truly blown my mind. Works of art, music, weird science, books of philosophy, sure, ideas have blown my mind, but when I try to mentally flip though the catalog of my favorite films, or ones that I quote from the most often, or what have you (Female Trouble, Valley of the Dolls, Putney Swope, Ken Russell’s Isadora Duncan: Biggest Dancer in the World, Head, Richard Lester’s criminally underrated Petulia) I still wouldn’t file any of them as particularly “mind blowing,” just as movies that I happen to really, really like.

When Mark sent out the invite to contribute, I confess that I immediately drew a cinematic blank, but there was one film that that didn’t necessarily “blow my mind,” per se, in the same way that the other participants here have expressed it in their posts, but it did fundamentally alter my mind, or at least it did something to immediately change my perception of the world around me, in the sense that there was a before & after aspect when I watched it. Accordingly my anecdote will be short and sweet.

When I was a 7-year-old kid in 1973, What’s New Pussycat? the quintessential sexy 60s comedy “romp,” aired on ABC’s Movie of the Week and I watched it in the basement of my parent’s house on a cheap black and white TV set with a rabbit-ears antenna with balls of tin foil crunched at the tip of each branch. The picture quality was comparable to a security camera. Why I was watching What’s New Pussycat? sitting alone in a damp, crappy basement or even interested in this particular film in the first place at that age, I couldn’t tell you, but I am guessing I wanted to watch it because I liked the theme song, sung by Tom Jones (I owned the 45rpm on Parrot Records) or else simply because Peter Sellers was in it.

In any case, the pivotal moment for me happens at about 120 minutes into the film when Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress suddenly drops from the sky and parachutes into Peter O’Tootle’s convertible. I can vividly recall my eyes growing wider and wider and feeling what you might call a “stirring” in my loins as I stared in utter amazement at the most gorgeous creature I had ever seen in my short life. I was completely astonished and transfixed by how beautiful she was. I had never before seen a woman who looked quite like that and the sight of this blonde goddess strongly implied to me that there was something that I might be missing out on…

It was at that precise moment the proverbial light-bulb went on over my head about what the whole “big deal” with girls must be all about. That such a creature as Ursula Andress existed indicated that there were more of them out there. Suddenly there was meaning in my life and something to aspire to. I made a mental note to move to Switzerland as soon as I grew up.

By the end of the film—which being a comedy made in 1965 only hinted at the things that were going on offscreen—the mechanics of procreation seemed rather obvious to me.

After that brief “Aha!” moment, the world around me started to make a whole lot more sense…

Mind Blowing Movies (Boing Boing)

In the clip, Ursula Andress drops from the sky to tempt soon-to-be-married Peter O’Toole in What’s New Pussycat? to the tune of Dionna Warwick singing “Here I Am.”
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Wilson and I: A personal recollection of Robert Anton Wilson


A pop art RAW portrait by Bobby Campbell

An essay that I wrote about Robert Anton Wilson has been posted as part of Boing Boing’s special “Robert Anton Wilson Week,” joining pieces by Douglas Rushkoff, Erik Davis, Antero Alli, Ivan Stang, Gareth Branwyn. Paul Krassner, R.U. Sirius and others:

As “outsider” teenage readers of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s classicIlluminatus! trilogy in the early 1980s, it seemed to some of my friends at the time (all big Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan and Philip K Dick fans, too) that the novel’s authors were trying to communicate something “in code” to their readers, like it was a message about “the conspiracy” that was coming from an underground resistance group. I thought that was bunk and fanciful nonsense, but it goes to show how strong of an effect that book had on kids’ imaginations back then.

Illuminatus! was a touchstone for freethinking weirdos of that era, one of the rare books that even attempted to make sense of being born into an ever increasingly surreal world still reeling from things like the JFK/MLK/RFK assassinations, Watergate and the Vietnam war and where Ronald Reagan, a bad actor who once worked with a chimpanzee, had just become President.

It was also an interesting experiment in mass occult initiation—sold at shopping malls across America—that satirically tore away the veils of the modern world and (actively, not passively) imprinted a skeptical worldview on the reader. Read those books from cover to cover and there was virtually not a chance in hell that you’d be a normal person ever again. The Illuminatus! trilogy really made quite an impression, let’s just say.

Wilson’s non-fiction work, Cosmic Trigger, was of even greater interest to me with its cheerful speculations on Timothy Leary’s channeled communications from “holy guardian angels,” psychedelic drugs and Aleister Crowley. The so-called “23 enigma,” I was familiar with already because of The Third Mind by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, but it was explained in greater depth in Cosmic Trigger. It was the first place I’d read of Robert K. Temple’s book The Sirius Mystery and it was also the first time I heard the name Terence McKenna. I can’t tell you how many weird and wonderful things that book exposed me to.

It was instrumental in forming my worldview. Simply put, it’s in my DNA. Cosmic Trigger is one of the UR-documents of my life (and career!).

The first time I met up with Bob Wilson, in the flesh, was at a day-long event called “Millennial Madness” that took place in the Scottish Rites Masonic Temple on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. It must have been around 1993. He was speaking at the event on a bill with Timothy Leary, medical marijuana guru Jack Herer and Paul Krassner. RAW was outside having a cigarette and I nervously offered him some of the spliff I was smoking, which he happily accepted and we chatted for a moment.

Read the rest at Boing Boing:
Wilson and I

Below, Robert Anton Wilson at the DisinfoCon, February 19, 2000, at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York:
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder: Made By Hand

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World is Mark Frauenfelder, editor of Make and co-founder of Boing Boing’s ode to the DIY lifestyle and slowing life down enough to allow for purposeful—and life enhancing—activities. Mark discusses bee keeping, raising chickens and the four and a half months he and his family spent living on a tiny island in the South Pacific. He also talks about his recent appearance on The Colbert Report and about the burgeoning DIY Maker scene across America.

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Ectoplasmosis: Friday Fez Fetish
11.06.2009
04:41 pm

Topics:
Fashion

Tags:
Boing Boing
Ectoplasmosis
Freemasons

image

This image, found via Ectoplasmosis, should properly excite the Masonic conspirators over at Boing Boing.

Written by Jason Louv | Discussion
Bees in Mark Frauenfelder’s Light Fixture
07.27.2009
10:56 am

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
Boing Boing
Mark Frauenfelder

image

 

Mark Frauenfelder over at Boing Boing says, “I thought a light bulb had burned out in the lighting fixture in the ceiling. The light bulb was fine—dead bees in the glass cup were blocking out the light. (This photo shows only about 1/3 of the bees—the rest fell on the floor when I took out the glass cup.)”


Bees in my light fixture

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion