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(Full article written by Aaron Pierre Brown. Please do not copy and paste in part or whole without express permission from the author at fu@houseofenigma.com)
 


Father Aaron Enigma
Photo: Lee Kay
Edited by: Jonathan Enigma

In actuality, Jody Watley was one of the first recording artists to feature voguers in a music videos: "Still a Thrill" and "Friends". A vogueing reference was once made to Taylor Dane's "Tell it to My Heart" video by someone who obviously didn't know what vogueing was all about. By far, rock impresario Malcolm McClaren's video "Deep in Vogue" allowed the dancers (Willi Ninja , Aldonna and Adrian Xtravaganza) the most freedom to express a range of styles.

With Madonna's exposure of vogueing to the mainstream (albeit a watered-down version), everyone got the call to "...strike-a-pose, there's nothing to it...". For such a supposedly "easy" dance, there were only two members of her troupe that actually had any vogueing background, Jose and Luis Xtravaganza. Straight from the ball/club circuit, they taught their

fellow dancers a few choreographed moves, and the tour was on. Their sole delivery pushed them to the forefront, though they were hindered by the intermediacy of their supporting cast. To make it more marketable, Madonna's song "Vogue" had to concentrate on the posing aspect, which is simple enough to teach a multitude, but does NOT a voguer make. Actually, Posing is often its own ball category, and one can be eliminated swiftly upon not knowing the difference.

Other media over the years has misrepresented the term vogueing, describing it as lip sync/drag performance or just modeling in general (such as reviews of movies like "Stonewall" and "Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert"). While these elements can be incorporated, it is still the actual DANCE of which we speak. A true voguer SEAMLESSLY combines the disciplines of a diverse range of movement: martial arts, jazz/ modern dance, gymnastics and yoga, among others. Beyond this, there is still a particular execution that distinguishes vogueing from other dances. Structured around distinct hand and arm movements, the voguer must keep time with the beat of the music, as well as accentuate the various changes in the music. Improvisation is driven by the build-up and break-down of baselines, rhythms, sound effects and vocals.

Starting out as "Performance", the dance took on the name "Vogue" during the late 70's, when practitioners started borrowing ideas from the more extreme photo layouts of current fashion magazines. Over the years, influence from other creative sources have been incorporated, including fan dancing and pantomime. Sometimes the use of a prop is encouraged, to show ones dexterity. The Legendary House of Dupree was known for performing with chairs, batons, swords, you name it. Therefore, the skill of the voguer is measured by how well these elements are melded into one spontaneous performance. This process is ongoing, lending to the dance's metamorphic nature.

A wide range of styles has evolved over the years. There are two main divisions: "Old Way" (60's, 70's and 80's) and "New Way" (90's and beyond). Also, BQ technique is traditionally separate from that of the FQs, with styles loosely based at opposite ends of the masculine/feminine continuum.

Old Way Performance deals more with style and acrobats, like its younger cousin, break(danc)ing, but can still be disected even further. In the earlier days, break dancers would "clash" with the voguers at places like New York's Central Park or Washington Square Park, and the exchanges of techniques developed an odd but respectable rapport between the two groups. The results of these exchanges created "Lofting", named after the now defunct New York club "The Loft", where you could find the closeted and otherwise "banjie" boys combining vogue arm movements with their break dance floor work. This would then lead to ball categories such as Lofting vs. Pop Dip and Spin.

Pop Dip and Spin was developed as a result of BQs combining FQ technique with break dance moves. Back then, the FQs performance was characterized by freeze-frame poses and fluid hand and arm movements, but never dipping- they didn't want to risk ruining their hair, makeup and/or gowns. But the BQs weren't "dolled up", so they had more freedom of movement, and could take it to an extreme. The battle-like aspect was further displayed through actually locking and pinning the opponent, while still maintaining a graceful performance.

New Way involves displaying ones physical flexibility, coupled with slight-of-hand arm and wrist illusions. "Arms Control" plays a large role, as the practitioners' limbs become kinetic sculptures or the gears and mechanisms in an amusement park ride. While Old Way encourages "in your face" action, New Way vets usually aren't allowed to touch their opponents. The battle is rendered through exhibition. The constant evolution of the dance widens the New Way range, but the styles prior to the 80's will always be classified as Old Way.

A new generation of BQ's, however, has created yet another category, by taking FQ technique and exaggerating it even further: BQ Vogueing Femme. Catwalking (upright sashaying) and duck-walking (a squatting/scooting/bouncing motion) dominates. Lunges, dives and other "suicide" dips are incorporated, in an attempt to accent the surprise sound effects that strike throughout certain dance tracks (i.e., Jim Carey's dance remix of "Cuban Pete"; George Kantz's 80's classic, "Din Da Da"; Masters At Work's crowd pleaser, "The Ha Dance"; and Kevin Aviance's anthem, "Cunty"). The emphasis is on how flamboyant one can be through movement alone. These competitions are often divided between the soft/dainty performers (Angels or Soft and Cunt) and the "drama" queens that incorporate BQ-based antics (Devils or Dramatics).

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