It’s dance — but not as you know it. A giddy mass of flying limbs, sashaying hips and pouty faces. Hands now stretched up high and fluttering as in flamenco, now on the ground buttressing cantilevered bodies and holding on to legs that seem to want to escape their owners. ‘I saw things I never saw before,’ David Byrne said after viewing a voguing battle in 1989.
Don’t be fooled by the playfulness of the camp. Voguing is an art, a sport, a way of life — a combative display of agility that grew out of the American drag ball. Its first blaze of mainstream glory was in the 1980s, when the scene hypnotised fashion and pop and catapulted voguing to becoming the flamboyant subcultural export it is today.
The historian Tim Lawrence dates underground drag balls back to 1869, when Harlem’s Hamilton Lodge threw its first queer masquerade ball.