Strike a pose: Performance categories

4 November 2016

This blog series guides you through a brief history of ballroom culture and voguing. From the beginnings in New York to modern voguing and performance categories, 

Initially conceived as ‘posing’, Vogue performance as we know it today has developed into three distinct styles which, in competition, are mutually exclusive.

Old Way is the the ‘original’ form of voguing and can be easily identified as a series of clearly defined poses, as if being photographed by a camera, that take influence from fashion, kung fu, and hieroglyphics. Adjacent dance styles of the time such as breaking and popping also fed into Old Way voguing.

As trained dancers began walking they would incorporate the flexibility and musicality of their training, building upon the precise lines and strong triangles of Old Way and introduce boxes, contortion, splits, and stretch/’clicks’. This would become known as New Way.

Developing in parallel to these styles was the more ultra-feminine, athletic Vogue Fem pioneered by trans women that softened the movements of the more masculine Old Way. Swirling movements of the hands and arms were introduced to draw attention to the face, breasts, hips, and genitalia – sites of corrective surgery as well as exalted feminine power.

Within Vogue Fem are the two sub-styles: Soft & Cunt and Dramatics, the former characterised by softer, more classically feminine movements and the latter by high-energy athleticism.

Aside from showcasing garments, the additional performance category of ‘Runway’ also includes the technique of ‘blocking’ or cutting your opponent off during their walk or hiding them from the view of the judges, without touching them. Entrants to Runway showcases emulate ‘European’ (feminine) and ‘American’ (masculine) runway walks.

As is the case with actual runway modelling, Runway adopts the practice of not walking on the beat of the music, which is seen to belong to the choreographed vocabulary of a dancer rather than a model, and would result in an instant ‘chop’.  In all cases, battling takes place simultaneously between entrants rather than in succession, a practice unique to voguing.

Members of the London Ballroom Community and friends will be performing at Friday Late Spectacular: Body Language on Friday 4 November.

Duane Nasis is an Old Way Voguer and Art Director, who creates and develops concepts for various moving image projects from stop-motion animation and commercials to music videos. 

Kendall Mugler (Vogue Fem) & members of the Paris Ballroom Scene, Le Gros Journal avec Kiddy Smile, 11th Oct 2016 (Canal+)