March 2013

Voguing: Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92

Soul Jazz Books

  • 7 Broadwick Street
  • London W1F 0DA , UK

+44(0) 207 7734 3341

In 1990, the documentary Paris is Burning brought a style of dance called "voguing" out of the Harlem clubs and into mainstream America. The same year, Madonna took it worldwide with her best–selling hit "Vogue" which sold two million copies that year and went on to sell six million more.

But behind the glamour of the dance craze was a group of people from the African American, Latino, and LGBT communities, who saw voguing as a way out of their everyday lives of poverty and, often, abuse. For a few minutes on the dance floor they could pose and walk their way to stardom and achieve their ultimate goal of "realness. " A realness, to them, that meant fitting into a rich white man’s world.

They formed communities called "Houses" with names like "House of LaBeija" and "House of Xtravagnaza," where they created their own families. Many, who had been kicked out of their own families for being gay or transgendered, found acceptance and love among their own kind. These houses would meet at dance halls in Harlem and have walk offs during extravagant balls. If a contestant won enough of these walk offs they earned "legendary" status.

Chantal Regnault and Tim Lawrence’s book Voguing: Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989–92, is packed with full page photos and essays chronicling this time in history and reports on the ultimate fate of many of the legendary performers. Tragically, so many men died from AIDS related causes, since many of these stars are no longer with us. This wonderful book is a loving tribute to these glamorous divas.

Today, thanks to performers like RuPaul and Azealia Banks, voguing is seeing a new life on the dance floor. After all, don’t we all want to be stars, if only for the length of a song?

Reviewed by FIDM Library Staff Member Jason Galloway