If music is the Kitchen of the Ballroom house then voguing is the dining room. Nourished and fuelled by Ballroom beats, the dining room table is the dance floor where our house family members converse, posture, throw shade. The language that you speak at the Ball however, is Vogue.
“Voguing is the same as taking two knives and cutting each other up but through a dance form. Voguing came from shade because it was a dance that two people did because they didn’t like each other. Instead of fighting you would dance it out on the dance floor. And whoever did the best moves was throwing the best shade basically”
- Willie Ninja in Paris Is Burning
Voguing is primarily a dance battle. It is a form of improvisational dance that incorporates elements of martial arts, runway model and high fashion poses, breakdancing, Egyptian hieroglyphics, gymnastics, Cirque De Soleil, and gender performance. Movements that 1960s drag queens did with their hands and fans were also important influences in the development of voguing.
"I know Paris (Dupree) was an early pioneer of voguing. But I believe that vogue existed in some other form through other people as well. I also think that a lot of voguing poses come from African art and Egyptian hieroglyphics"
- Kevin Ultra Omni, Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92
Voguing was originally developed mostly by Butch Queens who competed in Runway
and Face categories.
“Although there were early Femme Queens who vogues (such as Duchess La Wong and Sandy Dior), early Voguing -or Old Way- is still considered to be a largely masculinised ritual tradition”. - The Social World of Voguing Johnathon David Jackson
The “Butch Queen Mod Face” category and the “Pop, Dip and Spin” category which later became known as “Poses from Vogue” laid the foundations for voguing. It’s called vogue because some of the movements in the dance are the same as the poses in vogue magazine.
There are 3 main styles of Voguing:
Old way is a duel between rivals characterised by lines executed with symmetry and precision in a fluid and graceful movement.
New way is complex and involves extreme flexibility and poses inspired by contortionists, gymnasts, yoga and haute couture featuring sharp angles, boxes, illusions with the arms, wrists and hands.
Vogue Fem is a highly feminine style of vogue known for 5 elements: Hand/arm performance, catwalk, duckwalk, spins & dips and floor performance. Influences are modern dance, ballet, figure skating and pantomime.
“When you vogue it’s also a political act with your body, coming out as a drag or transgender on the floor, showing yourself, being proud of yourself on the floor.” - Lassiendra Ninja for the New York Times
The main elements of Vogue are :
Arm Control/Performance, Leg Control/performance, Hand performance (in Old Way and New way wrists are not as limp as in Vogue Femme), Dips (Lowering, falling or descending to the ground), Duckwalk/Catwalk (very small steps in a mid or low level squat), Floor performance, Twists, Spins, Poses, Pop, Dip, Spin (a sequence in Old Way which involves a syncopated arm movement into a dip and then coming out of a dip into a spin and then dipping again), and Locks.
Every vogue performance must demonstrate an understanding of the above core elements in order to really be considered vogue. A Vogue dancer must learn these elements and create their own sequences, vary them, make them their own and augment them. Vogue is primarily a dance battle so they need to improvise and keep an eye on their competitor, responding in real-time to their actions. Precision is key!
Of course the most well known Voguing Icon is probably Willie Nija. But some of the original Voguing lcons are said to have been: Parris Dupree, Andre Christian, Rodney Ebony, Hector Xtravaganza, Stevie Saint Laurent, and Jerome Omni.
Jerome “Arms” Omni is said to have developed the complex upper body movements that “double-jointed” Voguers perform.
Videos of Voguing Legends:
Willie Ninja Voguing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmuFbqwFpUw
A Tribute to Willie Ninja: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hV92VUKTrmg
Willie Ninja: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuuU2vBinAA
Voguing, The Message, a Frameline 1989 documentary
One Night On the Pier, Vogue the Old Way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyazLCgPdOg
Classic Vogue, compilation video by Old School Ballroom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx7OXO3MUwI
The language of Vogue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS5j7PCSdtg
Willie Ninja Tongues Untied: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-NffauTW3Y
A Brief History of Voguing
Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene:
Minstrelsy & Cakewalks: https://digitalgallery.bgsu.edu/student/exhibits/show/race-in-us/african-americans/appropriation
Ballroom Culture: Language of Vogue
Vogue Dance History and Styles: