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Strike a Pose: Ballroom culture since the '70s

Performers compete during the "Battle of the Legends" vogueing competition outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Performers compete during the "Battle of the Legends" vogueing competition outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Forget the waltz and the tango. For this show, we’re headed to a different kind of ball. In these spaces, Houses (a kinship system consisting of mothers, fathers, and children) compete in different walking and dancing competitions.

Crystal LaBeijais credited as the beginning of ballroom culture. In 1967, she walked off the stage at a drag ball in protest of racial bias from the ball judges. In the early ’70s, she left the drag ball scene altogether and started what is considered the first ballroom house — the House of LaBeija.

 

It’s long influenced important parts of American pop culture. Beyoncé’s“Renaissance,” Madonna’s “Vogue”, the award-winning show“Pose,” and HBO Max’s reality show “Legendary” all highlight or borrow from ballroom culture.Its history has also been recorded in documentaries like“Paris Is Burning”or the more recent“How Do I Look.”

We gathered a panel to discuss the history of ballroom culture, what it looks like today, and how it can be a place for political organization.

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

Jorgelina Manna-Rea
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