Less is “more.”

It took me a while to really settle into my feelings about Headlong Dance Theatre’s world premiere of “more.” at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival a few weeks back. Initially I wanted to sit down and write my immediate feelings about the piece but I felt that my hastened critique and review would have been convoluted at best (which isn’t so inappropriate considering the work in question).

“more.” is one of those pieces that dares the audience to understand what the work is trying to convey. It’s the tale tell story of the artist making art for art’s sake rather than trying to appease the non-artist that shells out the big bucks for said art. I have gone into the artist’s artist persona of show business way too many times, so I will spare the redundant details here.

“more.” is less of a ballet or dance and rather more of a theatre piece with contemporary movement the likes of post-modern and contemporary aesthetics where contractions, extensions, spasms, falls, twitches, intricate handwork and exaggerated emotion reign supreme. The work was inspired by conversations with Tere O’Connor, a reputable veteran dance maker in the modern dance community who has commissioned works for companies across the globe and back again. The conversations, inspirations, aspirations, and actions that made up the myriad of phases to produce “more.” have all been documented here http://www.danceworkbook.org/headlong/index.html in the first installment of a new project from Dance Advance called Dance Workbook that chronicles new dance works from conception to production, with a forum for continuing conversations regarding the piece.

Like many of the Live Arts Festival shows, there was a full house on the closing night performance at the Arts Bank on Broad Street. There was a motley mix of dance community familiars, casts from other shows and the people who love them. There was that ever so common air of anticipation floating around, dense as could be, awaiting the surprises that lay ahead of us. With such a highly regarded company as Headlong Dance Theatre who is known for being a forum with which audiences are encouraged to emotionally interact with dance and provides an incubator for Philly’s most talented young choreographers to hone their skills, it was hard not to have high expectations.

The characters of the work brought simple pieces of familiar furniture onto the stage. A couch, a chair, a rug, a stereo, a coffee table. This was all done simply and nonchalantly as Devynn Emory engaged the entire environment with quirky movements consisting of walks, twitches, twists and noises. There was something light and uncanny about her movements that sparked a little bit of laughter from the audience. It was broken down complexity, raw and vigorous but soft around the edges. Soon, she was inundated with the growing population of cast mates and set pieces, and the stage was almost set.

At first it is hard not to wonder if there is a story or a specific clause that could describe what the performers are acting out. Is it satire? Is it a movement study? Is it commentary? Much of the specific curiosity dissipates as you realize that the story is amorphous and the fragments that the work is composed of are all irrelevantly intertwined in the perfect description of the life cycle as we know it.

The work displays the simple comforts of life: home, movement, company. The added benefits are stripped down to the core and the dancers are left in this surreal, down to earth habitat that has no beginning or end.

After a while, it all starts to make sense when one of the dancers turns on the stereo allowing us to hear actual dialog from Tere O’Connor (or at least, who we are led to believe is Tere O’Connor) that is humorous and ominous all at once. He talks of what “stays” and what “goes” as far as life and our existence. Of course, pain stays while a plethora of other things go away. Is he talking about life? Or is he talking about death? When do things go and when do they stay? That was the unanswered question.

There was a lot of build up of tension which is something that I’ve been playing around with in my choreography and I’ve been seeing a lot of on stage lately. Tension can be a scary thing. Like comedic timing, if you don’t do it right, it could all fall apart. There is nothing more unsettling than sitting in a crowded theatre that is dead silent for more than a minute at a time while everyone’s focus is on a particular element of the piece. In this case, we were tormented with what seemed like a million minutes waiting for a poptart to be finished out of the microwave. To me, it seemed a little unreal that a toaster pastry would be left in the microwave for so long, and it was a little agonizing to have to sit there and wonder what was going to happen next, but I guess that was the point. Right?

Another way that tension was built up was through the never ending repetitiveness of many of the movement motifs. While each character had their own style, it was all cohesive and seemingly in the same genre. Perhaps this was an explanation of cycles and the ordinary tasks that come with the day-to-day world of our lives.

By the end, there was enough tension to poke a stick at and our highlighted dancer, Devynn Emory took the cake (and ate it too) with a rockstar maneuver of ripping up the Marley dance floor from the surface of the stage. Piece by piece, row by row, she (literally) stripped the environment and the neat and orderly safety that the special flooring provided for the stage. I wanted to get up and yell “Yes!” to see something so ugly and so fucking pretty done on a dance stage. It reminded me of my idols who were infamous for breaking their guitars onstage after a riotous show.

Much is to be said for the other dancers who gave exquisite performances with grace, vigor and passion. Nichole Canuso provided much of the most dance-like dance (conventionally speaking) with leaps and turns that provided a familiar lexicon indicative of ballet. Kate Watson-Wallace offered her wonderful zesty, broken down and disconnected, elegant but gritty floor work slash breakdancing that she is so well known for and does so well. Niki Cousineau imparted a vibrant communication through her body work and facial expressions, adding even more depth to the complicated yet focused piece. Jaamil Olawale Kosoko acted as the golden thread who kept the piece together, primarily supporting and asserting Devynn Emory’s role in the work. He commanded all of the movements during his fragments and handled them with precision and grace. Christina Zani played one of the more memorable, bittersweet characters who sustained a foot injury and wore an orthopedic boot and integrated a wheelchair into her dances. The inclusion of her injury in the work spoke volumes about the delicacy of the body and the usefulness of movement in an arena where it is most important. A short solo evoked sympathy and admiration, from her passionate display of helplessness and determination.

By the end we were left with trees in the middle of the living room, a stage half ripped apart and a sole dancer trapped behind a set of barnyard fencing while being gawked at by her peers. Throughout the piece we were given moments of vibrant energy and inexplicable movement, and at other times we were given absolute nothingness. If this is not the ebb and flow of life and of what stays and what goes, then nothingness is. Still, it is a worthy effort, creating this dance without a lot of dance in it from a company that has invited everyone in to see the process from start to finish, has broken boundaries without begetting pretension, and while still managing to entertain an audience.

B+

Off the Deep End?

Urban Scuba
Brian Sanders/JUNK
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival
The Pool at the Gershman Y
401 South Broad Street
September 2010

It is hard not to have preconceived notions when you are about to experience art. Whether it’s reading a book, going to the theatre, going to see a ballet, seeing an art exhibit, watching a film, et al, you already know what the work is going to be about, who is involved, what their previous experience is, and what people think about it. You have all this knowledge and information without having yet experienced it.

The house manager announced “Forget everything that you have seen and read about Urban Scuba. Until you’ve seen the show, you have not experienced Urban Scuba.” Profound in its frankness, it was true and pithy. We were definitely in for an experience.

I was already excited about the show but nervous as well. Nervous mostly because as an artist and specifically, a choreographer, it is hard to sit and watch a show without thinking about who’s not spotting their turns, when are the dancers not synchronized, why is the lighting scheme this or that way, who has the best extension, and most importantly, how would I have made this better.

I was already familiar with the work of John Luna, one of the dancers in the piece. Well known in the Philadelphia dance community, Luna is most famous for his daring acrobatic style that is buoyant, uncanny and incredible. He is like a rambunctious dance monkey that can defy gravity. All of what I have seen him in has been his dance work in pieces by Molly Root and Kate Watson-Wallace. I had the amazing opportunity to partner with Luna during an audition for Watson-Wallace and he was a dancer’s dancer. He brought this wonderful aura to the movement combination that elicited this amorphous engagement out of me that brought out this wonderful comfort and understanding of the choreography; like a runner’s high, but with dance. Naturally, as a dance maker, I wanted to use him on my canvas. I thought of all types of ways to contort his body and for ways to bring his style into my own motifs, but alas, he is another muse not yet to be exploited by my ideas.

Indeed Urban Scuba was heavily influenced by the dancer’s high, that rush that comes when you reach that balletic nirvana, that supreme transcendence from body to pure rhythm. Full of spectacle and daring, it entertained, excited and enlightened.

Of most import was that the dance took place in an abandoned, Olympic sized pool at the Gershman Y on the Avenue of the Arts. The Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival are known for the site-specific works of their presenters, and at times it can get a little gimmicky. But here, Urban Scuba takes place in a space that is the perfect stage for the convocation of satire in which the space allows.

I was anxiously awaiting to see what all the talk was about. Even after the house manager’s precursory advisory, I was still stuck in my head wondering what it was that I was going to see that I’ve already heard about. The cramped space was full to capacity, the seats on risers in the shallow end of the pool. I sat on the outskirts of the pool, near the lip of one of the edges where you would normally dip your feet in to test the water. The latter half of the pool where the deep end was was home to the performance space itself. There were huge pieces of plastic hanging from rafters on the ceiling, trailing all the way down to the pool floor. Behind the plastic you could see some floating water touching the bottom of the scrim like plastic curtains. The site felt comfortable and lent itself to being a viable performance spot. It felt like art.

After too long, the show was about to begin. The music (that sadly went uncredited on the program) shouted out of the speakers in a gothic, techno, new-wave style, sounding like adrenaline personified. Big splashy puddles of water were strewn against the plastic, hinting at a madness behind the plastic scrim that might have soon been unveiled. The introduction went on long enough to build a superfluous amount of tension, and eventually, we were bombarded by flying bodies, flipping and gliding in the air attached to studebaker harnesses and high wires.

After a few moments I tried my best not to be jaded, but it was difficult because there was not only a build up of all the information I had already acquired about the piece, but there was such a build up in the room of anticipation, and for some reason, the beginning took too damn long. Could too much publicity make bad publicity exist? I wondered.

Soon, we were treated to the end of the introduction and the botched but brilliant high wire act subsided. The next few pieces started to meld together the inherent drama in the piece. There was an undercurrent of searching and longing that was explained through the dancer’s adroit mastering of the concept and the space of the dance work.

The mystical music along with the surreal movements painted an abstract picture of a creation that was part lively with humor and part dead serious. Stunt after stunt, we were led into this dream-like circus, all accompanied by a moody soundtrack of computer generated noise and heart wrenching musical instruments. A banshee-like dancer appeared, greeting us with a much needed softness and vulnerability, and she became the reality that made everything less real.

One of the most intriguing scenes that made up this impressive ballet was a duet of two male dancers who utilized a double-headed unicycle (no better way to describe it) that was hung and floating above the water. Their movements were impeccably composed and exciting to watch, as they scrambled their way to the center while the big rod swung around and around, while they pantomimed bicycle movements and the whole picture was seemingly a portrait of the vicious cycles we all go through while trying to maintain our balance.

I tried to relax and to take the whole thing in. To not read into the concept and just enjoy what I was seeing. It became easier and easier as the ballet progressed.

It wasn’t until half-way through the show that I realized that I was in fact watching a ballet. To me it seemed like the piece was slightly under-rehearsed only because the choreography involved so much difficulty that it would have been less exhausting for the dancers had the compositions been spread out amongst more bodies. It was quite a feat for them to achieve such strenuous bouts of dance not to mention the costume changes, being half naked and immersed in water throughout most of the show and so on. I felt guilty when I noticed a slip or an arm that wasn’t right, but that is my eye, and in a way, I am selfishly looking for flaws due to my insecurity in my own work.

Urban Scuba as a whole reminded me of youth. It was very nostalgic for me. It seems as though Brian Sanders found the perfect playground with which to try out all of his stunts. While there was nothing intellectually sophomoric about the piece, it was light and heavy all at once, while it didn’t take itself too seriously. There was no definitive story that screamed for the audience’s understanding, instead, it pointed a mirror at us and made us laugh at ourselves.

I can’t go on without mentioning the sultriness of the piece. The dancers were scantily clad in very nude colored clothing for much of their wet soaked performance. It was an inciting aspect that wasn’t too distracting yet it lent itself to stripping down the dancers to a divine anonymity that exemplified the universal characters they were playing. They were all slaves to their environment that bordered between zen and hell.

The pool was the perfect place for this wavy, funny nightmare. The characters were made to dance like fish out of water and to look like nymphs and playful children and brave soldiers and scared ingenues. These are the fish in the sea. It is all of us.

By the end I thought, how nice, a gimmick that isn’t a contrivance. I understood even though quite frankly I’m sick of the high wire act, I’ve seen it way too many times. Sure, it is nice to take dance to the next level, off the ground, but I was much more entertained, intrigued and impressed with the work that he did with the water. He choreographed liquid and he made the most of the space. I am quite inspired by the audacity of the piece and the danger, but I wonder if it was at all necessary. While Sanders didn’t get stuck in the undertow of creativity, he managed to zealously expose his talents.

Part of me loves that he went there and regressed back to that little kid in the playground trying to see what his body can do off the monkey bars or up in the tree. Then the other me was dying for a little bit more dance, and a lot less spectacle. But isn’t that what the playground is all about?

A-

Projecting

With the Philadelphia Live Arts & Fringe Festival in full effect, grant submission deadline season beginning and a slew of upcoming shows and films I’d like to see, I’m feeling a little whelmed with creative diarrhea, but in reality, I’m facing a horrible case of artistic constipation.

Having no outlet with which to display all of these ideas is frustrating. Normally I would just hash out some movement in the studio with some of the girls or write some bad poetry just to release some of the trapped art inside of me. But time has not been kind to me at all lately. I miss the days of being the early bird that gets the proverbial worm, now I’m plagued by assuming the form of a night owl with dark circles around my eyes.

I really have no right to complain – it is of my own doing, being married to work. I admit, I love money and all that it affords me, but part of me misses being the starving artist. There is something romantic and inspiring about destitution when art becomes your life force and your bread and butter is…well, you know. I have two great jobs that I kind of love but neither one is related to what I really want/need to do with my life. Alas, at least I don’t have a theatre degree, that would only make things more dubious and ironic.

Part of my issue with not doing what I do is that my stuff is getting better. I have had so much experience over the past 10 years and now I feel as though I should be reaching the height of my career, if not only to get closer to that plateau that is always getting further and further away from me. I see art sometimes (when I have the time) and some of it is so weird and inaccessible, it makes me wonder if the wrong people are getting the right money in this town. I can do so much better if only I had the resources.

I will be going to two Fringe shows, one of which has two of my favorite choreographers dancing in it: Kate Watson-Wallace and Devynn Emory. It is a piece called “more.” and I’m looking forward to seeing it although the description sounds like it is a little too avant-garde for my taste. I am also going to see “Urban Scuba” which has one of my favorite dancers, John Luna (swoon) in it. He is this crazy acrobatic monkey who can defy gravity and commits to all the work I’ve ever seen him do.

I’m sure those performances will engender a lot of inspiration and envy, it is yet another curse of the artist who loves art: unable to simply be entertained at a performance, always wondering how you could make it better or wishing that you would have thought of it first. I get that a lot when I see Kate’s work. The girl has style and while her work is complicated and uncanny, it’s pure rock n’ roll and I live for that.

I have been OBSESSED with Vogue Evolution from “America’s Best Dance Crew” for the past week and it has sparked and idea for a project that I have already started putting to paper. I’m looking for collaborators as to support the purpose of the piece and I hope that I will find a good marriage to make it a success because I really think this could be the piece that sets me off.

Vogue Evolution was “chopped” last week due to their lack to keep “America” on their side and their demise was spawned by the judges. While they were fit for the competition, in the end, they were too busy putting on a show to focus and concentrate on bringing clean, polished choreography to the mainstream stage, which I know they had in them but they stayed true to themselves.

I can’t stop thinking about how important their appearance on that show was. Like “American Bandstand” and “Soul Train” et al, “America’s Best Dance Crew” is one of those shows that exploits the culture of dance as it is today and the predecessors that inspired it. Unfortunately MTV isn’t what it used to be with less emphasis on music and more emphasis on lame reality television shows. My dream of being a music video director went down the toilet (also in part to the advent of youtube) because things just aren’t the way they used to be.

I do expect to have this project at least half way through the development and research phase by winter, and hopefully I’ll be ready to present at next year’s Fringe Festival. I really need to get back in the game, it’s eating me alive not putting my work out there.

Butch Queen Voguing Femme

dance.

It has been indelibly etched into my soul for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories as a young dancing fool involved dancing to “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics in my parent’s bedroom mirror. Of course I was teased by my brother and sister, but for some reason, that song just made me want to dance. I didn’t care. I must’ve been all of 4 years old, and the music literally moved me.

Soon after, I was tagging along with Mom and my big sister to their Jazzercise class, watching the legwarmer-clad women dressed like Jane Fonda, working it out to synthesizer music, sweating and panting in their botched attempts to follow the surely coked-up instructor’s choreography. I was the cute kid in the corner with the water bottles and dirty socks and gym bags, also following along.

A few years after that, I was obsessed with The Mickey Mouse Club and no one was going to stop me from my dream of being on the show. I gathered the neighborhood kids in my front yard and they learned choreography to the latest hip-hop and pop songs the likes of Janet Jackson, New Edition, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, et al. They had no idea what they were doing it for, but some of them had fun between rounds of “Double Dare”.

Not long after, I was on stage, dancing. I had been tagging along (again) with my sister to her rehearsals for the “Miss Black Awareness Pageant 1989” and the choreographer noticed the cute kid over in the corner following along to her adaptation of “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line (surely foreshadowing my obsession with that musical that was to come). She asked if I would like to come up with a routine of my own to perform during an intermission. How could I say no? I was all of ten years-old.

I had a white suit and a white fedora and a bow tie and shiny black shoes, and I danced the Roger Rabbit and did The Wop and The Cabbage Patch Kid to one of my favorite songs, “Every Little Step I Take” by Bobby Brown. The blinding lights were the biggest high, the whooping applause the biggest rush. I wanted to do it again and again and again.

Soon, I had become friends with some black girls from around the block and stepping was really starting to take off. I learned all the complicated clapping, slapping and stomping movements that came with the dance form. It was very difficult for me, being more of a free-form movement artist until then. The success of School Daze by Spike Lee was sweeping black communities everywhere, and in its harsh and candid depiction of black disunity, it somehow made us all come together through music and dance, much like our ancestors.

In junior high, I made friends who were cheerleaders and I started taking gymnastics. This was for me, I thought. Dominque Dawes became my new idol, and she even lived in my on-again-off-again hometown of Silver Springs, Maryland, where I spent summer’s with my father. She was an inspiration to me, a virtually unknown black girl rising above all odds in the world of gymnastics with her powerful acrobatics and quirky style. Unfortunately, after a while, I realized that my body wasn’t cut out for the pommel horse or the rings, it was my lower body that held my movement strength, so I dropped out of gymnastics and started to watch the cheerleaders more (though there were no boy cheerleaders at my school and I was too afraid to be the first one).

Instead, I took up soccer, a very visceral sport in itself. That ball is so unpredictable and there is no play that the coach can call to make the game go in a certain direction. I had always been an athlete and came from an athletic family, so it was no surprise that I excelled in some sports, particularly track and field. Of course the sport I hated the most I prevailed at and even broke many records. Part of me was trying to live up to the accomplishments of my brother and sister (I was the smart one) who were varsity stars of track and field and basketball, respectively.

When I got to high school, one of my best friends was the captain of the cheer leading team. I joined her at rehearsals and helped them incorporate some hip hop and modern styles into their routines. God it was so gratifying to see my choreography on them. Something about cheer leading that hones such discipline and obsession with perfection, and it’s really really hard to attain these objectives when you’re dealing with the physicality of the “sport” all while wearing a skirt!. I took up soccer my freshman year, and then I found the stage again.

In junior high I was in one musical. It was about the 50s and I got a small roll as one of the parents who were trying to show the kids “how it’s done” at the school prom. I got to do the Charleston, but my partner was a hot mess. I kept yelling at her behind the scenes going over the steps again and again, but alas, she had two left feet, poor thing. Great singing voice though. I wonder what ever happened to her. If she ever thinks of that little faggot that made her cry because she couldn’t dance. Oh well.

I gave up sports for drama. How surprising. I was hooked on the theatre and acting and those glaring, blinding lights that helped me see deep into myself all while creating the character of someone else. I loved reading plays and I began writing them for classes. I was getting small “blackground parts” (we black students called them) in the straight plays and major dancing roles in the musicals.

And the people I got to work with. So amazing. Mostly bipolar. Not only was there the drama club, but there was the distant cousins of choir (which I joined) and the ever infamously popular band geeks, known for their incestuous camaraderie and closeted flag boys. What fun. There was always a sax player that was so sexy though. The rogue, if you will.

Around the time I was in high school, once again I was tagging along with my sister, this time to gay clubs. This was the 90s, and I never thought at the time I’d ever say this, but the 90s were so awesome and free and light. I was all of 15 years-old, had just lost my father and still trying to cope with being gay and my imminent coming out of the closet. My sister paraded me around at 21+ clubs as her “straight” little brother, telling everyone I was 18, as if that made it more legal for me to be there.

There was Starz (formerly known as Ludwigs and now TIME) on Samson street, that infamous street where all the (then “drag queens”) now trannys would go to get their “coins”. I saw my first strip show there the likes of something I’ve never seen like it before or after. We’re talking beer bottles being used in inappropriate ways, fire torches, knives, wigs, weaves, silicone, ping pong balls, tennis balls, high heels, everything. I sat in awe as I drank my amaretto sours.

There was also The Nile (now known as used to be Signatures) on the corner of 13th and Locust, the dark dingy club that was predominantly black and dominantly gay. There was a bar in the front, a dance floor in the middle, and a pot smoking room in the back. The second floor is a blur. It was the 90s. And it was hot.

That’s when I was exposed to vogue dancing. Just the right song with just the right beat would make the whole place erupt with feminine screaming, making it sound like a cross between a roller coaster ride and several women getting sexually assaulted all at once. “YEASSSSS” “ALRIGGGHHHTTT” “OH NO SHE DIDN’T” These were the cat calls for “Divas to the Dance Floor Please”. My mind is flooded with those tunes and beats and sirens and alarms and bells and slams that accompanied those long long sweaty nights. “There’s Some Whores in this House”, “Wonder Woman”, “Darling I Love You But Can’t You See It’s Over For Me”, “From the Back to the Middle and Around Again, I’m Gonna Be There Until The End. 100% Pure Love”. All remixed to perfection.

Arms flailing, hair weaves flying, legs everywhere…this was the purest most emotional dance I have ever known. Battles on the dance floor were obligatory; men in scantily clad outfits, some topless, wrapped around each other, contorted and askew, in unthinkable positions of the body while the crowd cheers and waves their fingers in approval, egging them on for more. “YEEAASSS!” It was a whole other time.

There was something pure about the movement, something carnal. While not everyone was competitive, the amorphous nature of the dance spawned others to steal and share with one another. If someone came up with something new, the dance floor erupted. If someone came in and was double jointed, they got their props. If someone used a prop, it was “ovah” for them. It was all inclusive.

The culture of voguing predates my experience of it. It has only been popularized and solidified in pop culture by the queen of fag hags herself, Madonna, who effortlessly polished up the technique in order to market it. Vogue was a big hit, and it was remastered by a lot of deejays and in turn we adapted to the cleaner, more pretty version of the dance and watched in disgust as people tried to imitate it. Luckily, the brilliant and critically acclaimed Paris is Burning set the record straight- it wasn’t just about the dance.

I can’t remember when or where my first ball was. But much like the first strip show I saw, it was really fucking captivating.

I learned that there were groups of friends who recruited each other and traveled in cliques known as “houses” appropriately named after primarily haute couture fashion houses or references to and in the fashion industry. There was/is the House of Karan, the House of Mizrahi, the House of Revlon, House of Balenciaga etc. I never knew the initiation process because I was more of a spectator, but I knew you had to be drafted in and at least walk in one ball in order to be considered, and then approved by the house mother (usually a tranny) and father (usually a butch lesbian or a butch gay man). Every city has it’s own mother and father. It’s like the game of house, but for grownup gay people.

I won’t go into too much history of balls though. They are extravagant get togethers slash competitions where men and women (and others) compete for prizes on the runway, usually the likes of trophies and cash. There are several categories and they are all “gender specific”. By “gender specific” it is what the person in question identifies themselves as. There are butch queens (gay men), femme queens (transsexual females), trade (gay men of more masculine persuasion), butches (lesbians of more masculine persuasion) and women (women). The categories were mostly runway walking or voguing but there were subcategories such as “butch queen walking femme” which means it’s gay men strutting down the runway like women (there is also a category for when they are only allowed to walk in heels). There are numerous voguing categories, not only for the “gender specific” (I use that term SOOO loosely), but for the type of voguing that they do, usually old-school or new-school. Old school is traditional voguing which incorporates a more rigid and precise way of moving with some of the core techniques thrown in, the duck walk, wrist flexes, shoulder popping, and a lot of isolations. New school is much more freestyle and artistic, incorporating more acrobatics and original movement, usually where the more flexible prevail.

I went from the Mickey Mouse Club to this. It was all so fascinating. At the time it felt new and hip but so natural at the same time, as if we weren’t doing anything different. Every decade has it’s phenomenons and fads, but this just felt like we were carrying on a tradition. I did get really drunk one time and I tried to vogue at a ball, I was totally out of it. I got “chopped” within seconds and laughed it off (chop: to get cut from the stage and eliminated from competition, usually notified by one of the judges holding up a hanger – a hint for the competitor to “hang it up”).

About a year ago, the last nail in the coffin came in the form of Key West closing which was heavily patronized by the gay black community after several other places closed. I’m glad I got to see a little bit more of our tradition before it closed down. Now, we still take to the dance floors of Woody’s and Pure, but it is not how it used to be.

Now we have Vogue Evolution. The vogue-heavy dance group competing on America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV. Sure, America (and kids, more specifically) are a lot more acclimated with and accepting of gay culture these days, but I am still surprised that they are doing so well in the competition. While what they do is an important part of dance history and culture (much like burlesque, but don’t get me started on that), it seems as though they are emphasizing how political it is to have not only an all-gay group on the show, but a tranny too. I am so sick of people not realizing that the dance world is run by women and gay men. Those sexy moves you see Brittney Spears doing on that stripper pole there, a gay man came up with them. Like the Pussy Cat Dolls? Um, well a skinny white dude that likes his salad tossed taught those girls how to be sexy. The list goes on and on and on. And that’s just with pop dance.

*Sigh*

I hope the best for Vogue Evolution. I must’ve watched all of their routines about 17,000 times last night. As a performer, I was so nostalgic and reminded of what has inspired me for so long. Still I go to dance clubs and I just watch people, I watch new styles progress and old styles return. It will always fuel my passion. As a choreographer, I couldn’t help but note every misstep, sloppy move and un-synchronized section of their pieces. But, I will say, more than most other dance forms, voguing has a very unique point of view in that it comes essentially from the heart and is amorphous in its production and composition. No two voguers are alike, and never should they be. I am extremely impressed by these boys (and girl) and I feel blessed to be inspired all over again by something that is such a part of my cultural history and my personal life.

Ball Stuff:

http://www.wiretapmag.org/arts/43120/