Over the next several weeks I will be writing a series on The Ballroom Scene. Wikipedia cheapens the culture by diluting the definition, calling it a “subculture of the LGBT community involving staged competitive, drag fashion performances.” The ballroom scene is not only a new black art, but it comes with a lot more baggage than simply being a drag show. I personally am not a part of the ballroom scene, but any black gay out man across the U.S. has been to a ball or knows someone else who has been. If the gay community had north and south poles, men in the ballroom scene would be on the complete opposite of the spectrum from men that are on the DL. So over the next several weeks, here are the titles of the different aspects I will be writing about. The Ballroom Scene: An Underground Art Hitting Main Stream…The Downside of a Black Gay Subculture…Family Life…A New Black Art.
An Underground Art Hitting Mainstream
It is something to commend anytime an underground art flows into the main stream. Rap music for example, in the eighties was underground, and now even the parties at University of Chicago mainly play rap music. Slam Poetry/Spoken Word, an art that I am heavily involved in, was underground until HBO featured Def Poetry Jam, and brought the Art into the spotlight. The youth emergence of slam poetry was just recently featured in a HBO documentary earlier this year, called Brave New Voices. (A competition I was in for the last four years.)
But now, we see yet another art attempting to surface. America’s Best Dance Crew, A popular MTV reality show (now in its 4th season in two years) was the avenue for this new black art to be introduced to millions of people around the world. The actual name of the dance is called “Voguing.” However, there is a whole underground community and vouging is only one aspect of it. Dashaun Williams, Devon Webster Malechi, Williams Leiomy, and Maldonado Jorel Rios had the task of representing all of the ball room scene in the forth season of America’s Best Dance Crew. I think they did pretty well. See a clip of them below.
Whenever an underground art begins to surfaces there are always good and bad consequences that come. Many people who practice the art get mad because they feel that when something becomes commercialized the art is no longer original and will be tainted (Wikipedia gives a very good example of this), other concerns pertain to the art just being misrepresented in general. But good things can come from commercialization. Things like funding, more welcoming venues, and more participation.
I am excited to see where the “Artistic side” to voguing evolves to, but one must not forget, there is much more to the ball room scene than just a new type of dancing. And that’s when we get into the social issues, the traditional black family complications, and most of all, the drama!
I look forward to going into more depth on the whole ball room scene, and explaining my argument on how it is simultaneously helping and hurting young black gay men across the country.