Monday, 25 November 2013


It's not often you get a legendary voguer doing classes and performances right on your own doorstep. But that's the case with New York's Aviance Milan, who has recently been performing in Liverpool with the House Of Suarez, and teaching classes all over Europe. I was first introduced to Aviance through our mutual friend, the Swedish producer Petter Wallenberg, about a year ago and passed his details on to the House Of Suarez, and it has been very exciting to see them working together, culminating in a show called "Vogue Deco" which should be touring the UK next year. I originally interviewed Aviance back in January this year, but due to a hard-drive crash lost the text. Thankfully though, being a ture gentleman, he was kind enough to let me do the interview again last month...

How did you discover/get into voguing in the first place? 

It was the year 1991. I was in junior High School and my mother had gone away for the summer to Brazil, and I ended up staying at my Aunt's house in the Bronx. That's when I met Kevin Milan, who was a Magnifique at the time. He's passed away now. I saw them voguing, they were my cousin's friends who lived across the street. I got up to see what they were doing and they asked "are you interested in this? and I said "I guess so, a little bit". So they brought me inside the apartment and they played me tracks like "Dub Break". I hated it! But they said "if you wanna vogue this is the tune you have to vogue to". So they started teaching me stuff. Two months later I met Mink Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza, and, really, they were the first ones who taught me about Balls, because I didn't know what it was. So they brought me upstairs and showed me videos. The first time I ever saw New Way was Damian Xtravaganza, who is a Revlon now, and it was the first time I saw voguing with the contortions and the stretches and stuff like that. That was what really attracted me to it actually. I joined the House of L'Amore, which was my very first house, and I started training for about a year and a half. After I was done training I started walking balls and I would win constantly.

I take it that voguing culture had a lot to do with the club scene at the time, too? 

Yes, a lot of it had to do with the club scene. I started going to the clubs in 92, so this is 92/93.  Clubs like Red Zone, which was my first club. Then you had places like The Building, Trax, Sound Factory, Sound Factory Bar, Cafe Con Leche, Wunderbar, Danceteria, Stingray's, Mars 2112, Palladium, Club USA, Limelight, Roseland, The Tunnel… yeah there were tons back then! And that's where the battles really started. That's where it started to get really competitive, 'cos in the ballroom you've only got a few minutes. but in the clubs there is no end. It just goes on, haha! 

So, this is after Madona released "Vogue" and the world had taken notice of the dance/culture. Do you think that track affected the scene?

Madonna first discovered vogue at the original Sound Factory on 27th St. and the DJ was Junior Vasquez. She used to go there all the time and you'd see her, partying, flirting, doing whatever she was doing. After "Vogue", the scene had never really stopped, but I guess she kinda commercialised it, and introduced it to the world. But Paris Is Burning is still the closest you could get to seeing the fundamentals of it. Where it actually came from and why they do it.

The scene has changed, and a good way to define would be like fashion. And back then when I was really active and competing in balls, it wasn't as commercial as it is now. The audience is 20 times bigger now.  

For me, from my observations, I think it got more mainstream with Dramatic Vogue Femme. because nowadays if you go to a ball and you see the New Way category there's like 3 people. You know, I can say there's a handful of Dramatic voguers who do it really well that I can watch, but for the most part, like I said, everything changes, styles evolve, you know. Also, I was one of the first butch queens to Vogue Femme. And this is before the Dramatics, this is like Old Way Femme. Like Dramatics now would be considered New Way Femme, like what Leoimy does and the twirls and the headspins and all that stuff. 

How would you define your own vogue style?

I would have to define my style as Old Way/New Way. Back in 92-93, and even 90-91, there was a lot of people with my style, for example Jose Xtravaganza, who danced with Madonna. And Derrick Xtravaganza, Damian Revlon, Jose Revlon - if you look at our styles they are all kinda similar, in terms of the music and the technicality. (What I consider new way New Way would be Javier Ninja.)

Aviance battling all the way back in 1995!! 

Who were the originators of Dramatic Vogue Femme?

Well the creators of the dramatic which were the femme queens were Ashley St Clair, Venus Mizrahi, Alyssa, they were the creators. And then Leoimy came and took it to a whole noter level. I think the first time I saw Leoimy was around 2004/2005.

The founder of Butch Queen Vogue Femme was Eugene Milan, Chi Chi Mizrahi was another, Mysterious Dior, Carlos Mugler, Taiepha Ebony...  This is the original, butch queens taking from the femme queen style. This is in about 93/94, and I stopped doing vogue femme in around 97/98. I just wasn't picturing myself falling on my back ha ha!

Did you feel alienated by Dramatics?

No not at all, I didn't feel alienated. Like, a lot of people consider me the youngest of the old school,  cos I was so young but I was battling the originals. Actually, I feel glad that I came from that as opposed to what is there now. The down point to the current scene is that everyone looks like they are doing the same thing. When you see Old Way or you see New Way, we're not doing the same things cos everyone's a little different. But these days everybody hops down they hop on their feet they jump up they shake their heads, they fall back and they get up and repeat the whole process again! So it gets a little repetitive. But on another note, Leoimy is different when she does it cos there are moves that only she can do. Moves that people are still trying to master and they can't. It's refreshing to see that from her. But I have my favourites, like Leoimy, and I love watching Dashaun. And Jarell, who used to be a Milan too, and Joey Mizrahi. Those are my favourites cos you can sit there and watch and you don't know what they are gonna do. It's un expected.

What's your advice to people who are starting out in vogue/ballroom?

I tell everyone you have to pick a style that really calls you, and that you feel comfortable with. I saw old way and New Way just called me. Everyone has that niche, and when you see a tyle you love, that's the one you should master. I tell everybody, when you have mastered one, then you can master others. It's impossible to take 5 different classes from 5 different styles cos you will be confused if you don't know one. 

So how did you get started teaching voguing classes in Europe?

I had taken a break from the balls because  a lot of the New Way people were just battling ourselves, over and over. So it kinda died down for about 3 or 4 years and it was actually an email from Russia that got me back involved. After that it was like a domino effect! I started going different places and it just took off like that. Russia were the first ones to actually throw a ball, and I still have the flyer on my phone! That was 3 years ago. Since then I have performed in Sweden, Finland, Russia, France, Germany, the UK and next year in Spain. There's always something going on!

How did you end up living in Sweden? 

Well, I ended up in Finland as I was contracted through Nordic Moves school, for a period of four months, and so I moved there for those 4 months, and that's when I met my partner. I came back to the states for a month to settle up all my personal stuff, and then I moved back to Finland and then my partner got work in Sweden so they relocated us here. It's been a rollercoaster! 
Aviance performs a solo at the Blue Coat, Liverpool as part of Homotopia 2013:

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