Mention the word "voguing" to people, and generally their first reaction will be "strike a pose, there's nothing to it". A dance fad made popular by Madonna in the early Nineties but invented in the New York City gay underground years before, voguing faded into obscurity as quickly as it popped into the mainstream. It's good for nostalgic giggles, though: we've all seen that clip of "Vogue Boy" voguing in a shopping mall. But what if I were to tell you—like a big, gay Morpheus—that vogue was not a short-lived fad? Voguing is now part of a complex, diverse, fully-formed and constantly evolving underground culture called ballroom.
To be clear, "ballroom" takes it name from the venues in which the "ball" events take place, and is not to be confused with the "strictly" kind of ballroom. Like hip hop, ballroom encompasses many different elements of artistic expression, from music and language to clothes and design, and, of course, dance. It deals directly with some of society's most controversial issues, namely sexuality, race, class, gender roles and expression, beauty modes, self-definition and competition. It doesn't do this in the polemical style we may be used to from punk and political hip-hop, however, where topics are theorised and discussed. In ballroom these issues are lived and experienced, as a vast number of those taking part in this underground scene are transgender, working class, people of colour.