Monday, 31 March 2014

BALLROOM SCENE - Terminology

For those who wandered about the terminology of my previous post, here is an insight into the lingo of the Ballroom scene. 


  • HOUSE - a literal re-creation of "home" - in the sense that these groups became real-life families for individuals that might have been exiled from their birth homes. 
  • Femme Queens - preoperative male to female transsexuals, often known for their alluring beauty and uncanny "realness."
  • Butches - a term used to describe either aggressive lesbian women or female-to-male transsexuals.
  • The term "woman" - only reserved for either heterosexual, biologically born women or feminine lesbians that did not identify with the "butch" title.
  • "Trade" - describes men whose sexuality might have been in question even if their masculinity was not.
  • "Butch Queens" - a term used to describe any biologically born male that presented himself of as male, "Butch Queens Up in Drag" on the other hand came to signify gay men who dressed in drag specifically for the balls, but still lived his everyday life as a man.
  • Old way is characterized by the formation of lines, symmetry, and precision in the execution of formations with graceful, fluid-like action. Egyptian hieroglyphs and fashion poses serve as the original inspirations for old way voguing. In its purest, historical form, old way vogue is a duel between two rivals. 
  • New way is characterized by rigid movements coupled with "clicks" (limb contortions at the joints) and "arms control" (hand and wrist illusions, which sometimes includes tutting and locking). New way can also be described as a modified form of mime in which imaginary geometric shapes, such as a box, are introduced during motion and moved progressively around the dancer's body to display the dancer's dexterity and memory. New way involves incredible flexibility.
  • Vogue Fem (the spelling being an English appropriation to fr. femme, feminine) is fluidity at its most extreme with exaggerated feminine movements influenced by ballet and modern dance. Styles of Vogue Fem performance range from Dramatics (which emphasizes stunts, tricks, and speed) to Soft and Cunt (which emphasizes a graceful, beautiful, easy flow). 

There are five elements of Vogue Fem: hand performance, catwalk, duckwalk, floor performance, and spins and dips. When competing in a Vogue Fem battle, contestants should showcase all five elements in an entertaining fashion.
  • Hand performance refers to the illusions and movements of the arms, wrists, hands, and fingers.
  • The catwalk is the upright sashaying in a linear fashion.
  • The duckwalk refers to the crouched, squatted, foot-kicking and scooting movements requiring balance on the balls of the feet.
  • Floor performance refers to the movements done on the floor using primarily the legs, knees, and back.
  • The dip is the fall, drop, or descent backward onto one's back with one's leg folded underneath. Mainstream dance forms popularized the dip, which is occasionally called the "death drop" when done in dramatics style. Due to popular media, the dip is sometimes incorrectly termed the "5000", "shablam", and "shabam"; such misnomers likely stem from older commentators chanting the word "shawam" when a voguer successfully completed a dip.

Notes on Voguing

Many people know about it, some are Voguers themselves, others are already over it, but to many Voguing is still a relatively unfamiliar term. There are many an article written about it and I will try to point them out here.
First, how it all started? Where and when....
As any other underground movement/subculture, Voguing was born as an answer to socio-political pressures on a group of individuals. In this case particularly black and latin LGBT communities in Chicago and New York.
The correct term to use, we should point out, is actually Ballroom (or simply Ball) Scene. Voguing is the main style of this scene, but not the only one as we will see further on.
It is widely considered that Voguing dates back to late 70s and took 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. This really refers to Voguing as a style and attitude, but many will argue that the true birth of the ballroom scene is to be traced back to the notorious culture of Harlem drag balls in 1920s and 1930s New York. (ref: and and other claims even go further to suggest that the scene was born in Chicago as early as 1900s (ref: )
To define Ballroom, it is really a competition where different teams, called HOUSES perform against each other in various categories such as Fasion, Dance, Runway, Modelling, Face, Creativity and more. If the early balls were diverse, they were also very much white owned. This changed in the sixties, when Harlem's gay black community staged its own events. It wasn't until the following decade that the 'Houses' that supported the balls became formalized. In 1977 an imperious, elegant queen named Crystal LaBeija announced that a ball she'd helped put together was being given by the House of LaBeija, as in House of Chanel or House of Dior and the trend was formed. (ref: Michael Cunningham).
As the movement developed, it incorporated other forms of dance such as Waacking (high speed arm movements and hand gestures) and body popping. Largely an underground movement, it became relatively big trend by the end of the 80s when it suddenly experienced a mainstream breakout moment in the early '90s, when first Malcolm McLaren's 1989 release "Deep in Vogue" climbed the dance charts and then Madonna's take on "Vogue" became a blockbuster pop hit. Perhaps you've also heard of  Masters at Work’s 1991 classic “The Ha Dance” which is one major source for sampling for most of the New Way voguing sound. Then we had Jennie Livingston's 1990 documentary "Paris is Burning" which is a great film, argues "but not one that does its subject justice. There is more to the ballroom scene than chopping, mopping, "fierceness" and shade; and there is more to voguing than striking a pose.  As for Drag, it is a form of control. By looking good one can feel good. By looking powerful, one can feel powerful. One can be powerful. Therefore, beauty begets control.
Today, ballroom culture and voguing has become an integral part of the black gay urban experience. Voguing culture has evolved. It's riding a new wave of exposure, through thousands of fan-posted YouTube videos, the massive viral reception that accompanied the five-member Vogue Evolution team's televised run on America's Best Dance Crew in 2009, and Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" video, which features Leiomy of Vogue Evolution and centers on her signature "Leiomy Lolly" hair-whip dance move, also co-opted by Britney Spears and Beyonce. We've seen Kelly Rowland throwing shapes in more than one recent videos while the likes of Azealia Banks are coming up with soe sick beats - voguing style of cource. Lately, less formal groups of young voguers called kiki houses are springing up alongside the established houses. A more aggressive style of voguing has taken over, as "vogue fem" (or "vogue femme") continues to dominate the floor. Like most styles of dance, Vogue Fem is more about a look and feel than a hard-and-fast set of rules. It can encompass ultra-feminine, ballet-like "soft and cunty" movements on the one end, and hyperactive, stunt-driven "dramatics" on the other. Wild hair tosses, heart-stopping drops, and angled twirls became the vogue fem hallmarks. With the new style, dancers began to gravitate towards nervier, more anxious music with sharp orchestra hits, cascades of percussive crashes, and super-choppy samples. The gracefulness and glamorous poses of the Old Way [generally accepted division into Old Way (pre-1990) and New Way (post-1990)] made room for more attention-grabbing moves, and the amped-up speed garage sound of the new tracks wouldn't feel out of place on contemporary dance labels like Night Slugs or Fool's Gold."
But let's look back at the visual documentaries that turned the focus of the new generations to the legacy of Voguing and contributed to its revival of late. "Paris Is Burning" has introduced a wide audience to the language, style, music and culture of voguing. The 2005 documentary "How Do I Look" acts as a kind of riposte to Paris Is Burning, going further into ballroom culture and featuring some Paris Is Burning cast members who felt they weren't portrayed fairly. The main source for modern ballroom footage is unquestionably the YouTube channel Ballroom Throwbacks (recommended to us by Niall Connolly) , which has been grabbing and uploading candid footage of modern balls for a few years now. Also worth watching is The Luna Show, in which Butch Queen Face legend Luna Khan hosts some great short interviews with many stars of the ballroom scene.
As far as reading goes, the main books dedicated to the scene are:
Voguing And The House Ballroom Scene Of New York City 1989-92 - an excellent coffee table book produced by Soul Jazz, this time on the House Ballroom scene of New York as documented by Chantal Regnault
Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene - Gerard H. Gaskin's radiant colour and black-and-white photographs take us inside the culture of house balls. Comprised of photos taken at balls events in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., is a collaboration between Gaskin, a camera-laden outsider who has been attending balls for twenty years

Sources and further read:  (with free music download links)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Fashion Galore : in memory of Isabella Blow

Since Showstudio opened the new wing of Somerset House just over four years ago, it kick-started the trend of showcasing the most important fashion talent of our time. That trend continues today with the opening of their latest must-see show "Fashion Galore". It celebrates one of the most important visionaries in recent history, the late Isabella Blow and features highlights of her extensive (and rather exuberant) wardrobe. Expect to be immersed in a world dominated by wonderful creations by her friends Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen, numerous hats and avant garde head pieces and as many frocks and gowns and one-off designer dresses that offer a feast to the eyes and feed the imagination of any viewer.
Last night's private view of the exhibition proved how loved and respected Isabella actually was. Despite her disbelief in our appreciation, Isabella was an icon for every club kid or fashion student in London and around the world and last night's launch saw over 200 guests, some of whom close friends and family, many of her peers, fashion insiders, designers and editors, all raising a toast in her memory with a slight air of sadness still, for her passing was rarher premature.
The guestlist (which included pictures next to each name as I discovered) included pretty much every important person of the London social/fashion scene i e: Grace Jones, Honor Frazer, Henry Holland, Stephen Jones, Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, Princess Beatrice of York, Stella Tenant, Mary J Blige, Nick Knight, Philip Treacy, Daphne Guiness, Liberty Ross and Boy George to name but a few. Canopies were being served from a bird cage with two crows on each side and the cocktails were coming from every direction.
The show itself is a real treat with a healthy mixture of video footage from her personal archive, photographs and of course the fashion collection which was aquired and preserved by her friend and fashion icon Daphne Guiness. On display are also some of her most memorable editorial spreads, collaborations with some of the greatest photographers like Steven Meisel, David Lachapelle and Sean Ellis.

Isabella' s sister Lavinia

Make a note in your diary, the show is opening today. Whether you will be looking for an inspiration for your next outfit or just looking out for a creative spark, you do not want to miss this show.



Monday, 13 May 2013

As Seen In Blitz - book launch

Some of you might have already seen the new book "As seen in Blitz" dedicated to the hayday of the Blitz movement when the now cult magazine was the hip must-read of a whole generation. The book features a detailed insight into the most memorable content of the Blitz Magazine. In celebration of the launch of the book, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London is throwing a glitzy launch party (by invite or ticket only) and here is the memo:

We're Not Here To Sell Clothes: The Making of BLITZ Fashion

18 May 2013 - 19 May 2013 - We are delighted to celebrate the launch of Iain R. Webb's new book As Seen in BLITZ: Fashioning '80s Style with a series of special events. Over the weekend there is a pop-up show in the ICA Theatre curated by former fashion editor Iain R Webb, a series of talks with special guests, and film screenings. As Seen in BLITZ: Fashioning '80s Style focuses on 1980s style and culture and includes a wealth of stunning visuals, text and interviews celebrating the deeply influential pages of BLITZ. In London at the start of the 1980s, three new style magazines emerged to define an era. It was a time of change: post punk before the digital age and at the dawn of a hedonistic club scene that saw the birth of the New Romantics. On the pages of BLITZ, The Face and i-D, a new breed of young iconoclasts hoped to inspire revolution. As BLITZ magazine's fashion editor from 1982-87, Iain R. Webb was at the centre of this world. His images manipulated fashion to explore ideas of transformation, beauty, glamour and sex. The magazine's arresting, subversive fashion pages, and its profiles of disparate designers and creative types, let the imagination run free.The cast of characters and contributors include Leigh Bowery, Amanda Cazalet, Boy George, Princess Julia, Nick Knight, David LaChapelle, Paul Morley and Anna Piaggi. Featured designers include Bodymap, Judy Blame, Dean Bright, Comme Des Garçons, Jasper Conran, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Katharine Hamnett, Hermès, Pam Hogg, Marc Jacobs, Stephen Jones, Calvin Klein, Andrew Logan, Issey Miyake, Franco Moschino, Rifat Ozbek, Antony Price and Vivienne Westwood.'We're thrilled to be hosting the launch of As Seen in BLITZ. It's incredible to think who passed through the pages of BLITZ magazine - Malcolm McLaren, Madonna, Daniel Day-Lewis... I couldn't have survived the 80s without it.'
Gregor Muir, Executive Director, ICA

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

"Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore" soon at Somerset House

                                 image by Steven Meisel

So, it's finally official - "Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!"  is the next big event to add to your diaries peeps. The exhibition has been organized by the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins and will showcase more than 100 pieces from her collection. Curated by Alistair O'Neill and Shonagh Marshall, the show will be organized by theme and will spotlight Blow's aristocratic background; her early relationship with then fashion students  Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy; her massive hat collection; and her love of the British countryside.

                  image by Miguel Reveriego

Daphne Guinness, a longtime friend who purchased Blow's wardrobe after her death in 2007 is the main contributor to the show and described it as a "bittersweet event" for her. Issy, who was an important figure in fashion and nurtured many a new talent, committed suicide at age 48 after years of battling depression. Daphne Guinness was her friend and is also the founder of the Isabella Blow Foundation, which raises money to promote fashion, and to encourage young and aspiring talent. It also funds selected charities that promote mental wellbeing.

"She made our world more vivid, trailing color with every pace she took." - Guinness said. "I do believe that in choosing to exhibit them we've done the right thing — and that it is what she would have wanted. I am doing this in memory of a dear friend, in the hope that her legacy may continue to aid and inspire generations of designers to come."

Among the labels featured in the show, in addition to the obvious McQueen and Treacy, are Jeremy Scott, Julien Macdonald, Viktor & Rolf, Fendi, Escada, Prada, and Marni. Heath has created bespoke Blow mannequins that will wear full outfits once donned by the late fashion stylist and muse.McQueen's entire spring/summer 2008 collection, La Dame Bleue, which the designer and Treacy dedicated to Blow, will also be on show.

The show is to run from end of November this year to March 2014.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Club to Catwalk with Ziad Ghanem on LFW AW13

Club Kids fashion once again made it from the club into the catwalk on one of the last shows of this fashion week when Ziad Ghanem presented his latest collection last night. Painted faces paired with big volumed dresses, matadors dancing with kinky burlesques... such was the extravagant 'guest list' strutting his catwalk. Appropriately called 'Candy Darling?' this collection naturally drew a line from Warhol to the allfuence of today's Pop Art revival. An esctatic, colourful feast to the eye. 

Every fashion week offers direct references to the exuberant nightlife style of the club capital that is London. Ziad has always been true to this influence since he started 10 years ago. Not only in his pieces, but even with the choice of models, predominantly club personalities, who grace our party scene in their everyday life : club hosts, socialites, artists and dancers. What a great end to yet another great fashion week.