On Friday, one of the Drag Kings, Vanessa, from last weeks’ show hosted a new panel at USC on vogueing and the LA ballroom scene. Sometimes you don’t know what to expect with on-campus student events, but this one surprised in me in many good ways. First, I didn’t even know Los Angeles had a ball scene. By ball, I don’t mean classic ballroom dance, I mean an in your face runway, drag, dancing, vogue-fest. I had seen the classic drag documentary “Paris is Burning” (if you haven’t go watch it on Netflix right now). That film is a great introduction to the LGBT scene in 80s New York and explains a lot of the fundamental lingo, people, and history. However, I never realized this tradition is still alive right here on the west coast. It is relatively new with a lot of the current west-coast houses dating back to the late 90s (still long enough to be legendary).
The guests at USC included professional vogue dancers and longtime vogue advocates from Reach LA along with up and coming ball organizers from LA Burning Vogue. As vogue is developing from a street movement into an established dance form there was quite a bit of debate between old-school advocates who want to keep the vogue form pure and authentic, while the new blood that wants to continue to evolve and experiment. At its core vogue is still a street movement that will never be completely walled up in any ivory towers. Then there were videos. Reach LA showed some of their classic dance battles. If someone had told me this was from the 80s, I would have believed them.
VOGUE BATTLES at REACH LA
Meanwhile LA Burning Vogue showed a montage of their house/electronica scene:LA Burning Vogue
But perhaps the best part was the interactive lesson – how to vogue. There were three categories The first “Hand work” consisted of distinctive hand waves, swirls, and poses that are distinctly vogues – one moment your hands form a figure 8, the next they are sweeping around your head. I think I could get that.
Next came the walks – each of with lots and lots of feminine hip sway and extra attitude and swagger. The “Duck walk” is down in a full squat (we skipped that one), the “Cat walk” has the knees slightly bent, while “Runway walk” is a classic glamour walk. I’ve REALLY got this. After all, I just spent the last month practicing my walk with Tanisha for the Drag Show. I made sure to kick up my legs, and run my hands through my hair for extra effect.
As left, the dancers were encouraging me to come back and join them. LA Burning Vogue is having a ball on Wednesday downtown, so I think I will.