When a family starts to grow and they need extra space, they start adding new sections to the house otherwise known as house extensions. The original Ballroom houses have been extending outwards across America and internationally, building their own house - extensions known as chapters.
New York is the birthplace of this culture, but now it has a thriving national and international component.
The international Ballroom scene is alive and growing, with Balls now being held as far as Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan.
For the purpose of this research we are going to look at the UK and France as examples of how the scene has spread and taken root around the world.
The first house in the UK, the House Of Child was co-created by dancer and choreographer Les Child and performer Roy Brown (otherwise known as Roy INC) in the late 80’s.
Les had spent time in the US and was keen to introduce this style of dancing to the UK. The House of Child was more of a dance troupe than a fully fledged house, unlike their New York counterparts.
“It’s different from the American thing, which, as you know, was about kids being rejected by their families and being looked after. We looked after each other, but not to that extent. I didn’t really want to become a mother or be their caretakers. I guided them and gave them opportunities.”
-Les Child for Fact Magazine, The Untold Story of UK’s Vogue Scene Part 1.
Because Les and Roy already had lots of contacts in the UK cultural scene the House of Child was actually booked for lots of high brow events and gigs such as fashion shows for House of Harrods and Pam Hogg, Manolo Blanik etc. This was very different to its cultural roots, the underground club Ballroom scene in NYC.
“It wasn’t like the American houses – a house was like a chill out where people would go back to. Kenny’s door was usually always open.”
Voguing came first in the UK, and the initial house structures were much more informal. However, now there are four or five main houses in the UK; House of West (former House of Khan), House of Milan, House of Revlon and House of Commes de Garcon.
Many of these houses originated in New York and were established in the UK as international chapters. In this model there is a direct relationship between the New York and international chapters which ensures that the legacy is being properly passed on and respected.
“It started there, it is the birthplace. It’s only right that the mecca of Ballroom is New York City,” said Mother Steffie Mizrahi (known as “Nikki”), one of the pioneers of Paris’s scene. “But I would say the mecca of Ballroom in Europe is Paris.”
- Steffie Mizrahi for The New York Times
The Paris Ballroom scene is often named as the centre of Ballroom in Europe. The Paris scene was established by Steffie Mizrahi (also known as Nikki), who spent 13 years living in New York from 1996-2009 and was a good friend of Adre Mizrahi, Mother of the New York house of Mizrahi.
“Most importantly within these ballroom diaspora there always presides an appointed Mother or Father of a European/Eurasian Chapter of a New York house, again to ensure direct links with the source and history of ballroom culture.” - Duane Nasis (Old Way Voguer and art director) for Wellcome Collection
When Steffie returned to France she met Lasseindra, a dancer who had also spent time in the US, and was voguing at hip hop competitions in France because there weren’t any Balls happening. The hip hop scene was quite macho, and she was getting heckled a lot.
“People in Europe got to know voguing via YouTube,” she says. “YouTube started in 2005, I returned to Paris in 2006, and by 2007-8 there you were seeing it in European street dance competitions.” - Lasseindra Ninja
Lasseindra has mentioned several times in interviews that the advent of Youtube in 2005 changed everything for Ballroom, suddenly people gained intimate access to the culture in a way that was unprecedented.
Lasseindra and Steffie put their heads together and with the help of about five others in the community they decided to hold the first ball in France.
“Ballroom is competition, celebration, family ties” - Steffie Mizrahi for Black LGBT Historical Society.
Now there are 16 houses in Paris, and notably only one of them is an original French house; The House of La Durée. The rest are international Chapters of US houses.
House of La Duree
The Ballroom scene is thriving and growing in Paris and the houses are gaining some public recognition with the House of Mizrahi even performing for the president Emmanuel Macron in 2018.
Europe’s scene is often noted as being more multi-racial than the US scene which is predominantly Black and Latino. It is also of note that a lot more cis women tend to participate in Balls in Europe than in the US.
A quick note on the Kiki scene...
Another type of expansion of Ballroom, the Kiki scene is a youth-oriented sub-culture of Ballroom. It was born back in 2002 when Aisha Diori (then mother of the House of Latex collaborated with HIV prevention organisations to fund a less serious mini-ball for kids. It’s since turned into its own community thriving of balls and houses.
Sources & citations for International Houses:
House of Revlon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fIB05I9Z_w
House of Mizrahi Russia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZNXzZQUolo
Manchester Vogue scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeUEMIXY_ZQ
Les Child: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a57HLwzIzSU
Deep in Vogue, UK vogue scene documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD1k-acFn28
Paris House of Mizrahi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7LfHklgX34
Mother Steffie, House of Mizrahi: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=5EJ2qhwd3kY
2016 documentary KIKI http://www.kikimovie.com/watch-now
Voguing communities: https://www.facebook.com/VogueScotland/