Vogue Coming to Prague: Queer families, dance and lifestyle

This year’s Prague Pride festival is bringing to the Czech Republic for the first time ever… Voguing. If you know what that is or you don’t, you’re equally invited on Friday to the Village for the PRIDE BALL.Apocalypse.
FOTO: Xavier Heraud

The balls as we don’t know them

When you hear the slang word “ball”, it would be a huge mistake to imagine an elegant and decent social event. A ball (in this context) is a “contest in voguing” – a specific dance style which was born in the second half of the last century in the U.S. LGBT community. A dramatic event combining dancing, drag and a lot of self-confidence.

The traditional form of voguing are the so-called battles, which oppose several contestants. The `enemies` change positions within a limited time and try to be better than the rest. In vogue it’s the movement, gestures, and the entire look that make a winner. The goal is to show your technique and outfit and prove your own abilities, attitude and feeling.

Surrogate family

The Vogue dancing style has its origins in the queer underground of the New York Harlem in the 1970s. Back then, many LGBTQ Afro-Americans were excluded, because of who they were, not only from the larger society, but even from their own families. They took refuge in the ‘houses’, as those surrogate families were named. Every house has its `mother` or `father` and offers its members a place they may not find in their real families.


Strike a pose!

The most traditional dance style is the Old way. Its basics are the poses of models from fashion magazines, mixed with inspiration from the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the pumping energy of the martial arts. All of this, of course, against the background of expressive house music. What strikes one at first sight is the work with lines and symmetry. The fluency of the movement, the stress on precision and, on top of that, the elegant performance have turned this dance into a great spectacle.

The New way has a lot in common with the traditional style – the audience-captivating poses alternate in fast sequence and the geometric moves of the hands create refined optical illusions. A popular element is the ‘box’ performance – an invisible box that dancers move around their bodies to show their skills. The flexibility of the dancers’ bodies will leave you breathless.

Femme fatale

The most dramatic variant of all is however Vogue Femme. Its essence is womanhood: exaggerated, emotionally overcharged and overdramatized.  Vogue femme is sexy, elementary and proud.

The main components are the duckwalk – strutting on high heels, plus kicking in the rhythm of the music – catwalk – an extremely womanly walk where one leg covers the other and hips move provocatively – in fact, an extreme version of the fashion show catwalk.  In the Floor performance the dancers go down to the floor, where they crawl, walk on all fours etc. – to attract the attention of the jury and the audience. Another integral part of it are the hands performances, fluent and fast hand moves which always have a story to tell.

An important (and visually very attractive) part of the Vogue are the Spins and Dips – dramatic `pirouettes` and `falls` performed exactly in the rhythm of the music – the audience cry: “Work!” and snap their fingers in awe.


It doesn’t end with dancing

An inherent part of the balls are fashion and gender-picturing performances. The drag, which is an imitation of the opposite sex, offers a great opportunity to express oneself and is full of proud, charismatic personalities and sophisticated fashion creations. A hugely important, similar but by no means identical category is Realness. The aim is to impersonate a social group so convincingly that you cannot be told apart from its real members. Gay men, for instance, will pretend they are not gay at all.

There are however categories in which the acting skill is not at the forefront. Face is of course about the complexion: to be a winner, it’s not enough to have inherited your mom’s beautiful eyes - your whole look and expression will decide. The face must be naturally attractive. And for those who are beyond the face, there are other categories, like Best Dressed and Best Body.

Vogue is a lifestyle. It was born out of rebellion and necessity and became a modern subculture with a lot of personality. It combines arrogance with respect, vulgarity with glamor, high fashion with street style. The balls have always been a place where queer people can be not only themselves, but those they would like to be. And the judgment is passed by their peers, not by the society.

Public Vogue

Aa glimpse into the ballroom culture was offered to the wider public by the documentary Paris is Burning (1990), which we totally recommend. It’s on Youtube and Netflix. One should also mention the FX Networks serial Pose. The dance was ushered into the pop music by Madonna in her hit Vogue. Just watch the dancers!

Vogue is the essence of gay culture, 100% pride! Come experience it live at the PRIDE BALL.Apocalypse!

For updates about the contest, as well as for instructions for the participants, follow the official event on Facebook.

Chcete se o voguingu dozvědět ještě víc? Pak nesmíte minout článek v našem festivalovém Prague Pride MAGu. Ulovte si kopii na našich infostáncích nebo v dobrých gay podnicích!


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