There are many great things about living in the UK.
Of course, it’s not perfect here, but two of the main reasons I like living in this country are the acceptance of gay culture by the mainstream, and the importance accorded to dance music – all music really, from classical to pop. Which is why it’s always been a mystery to me that there is not more voguing going on here.
Vogue culture, or “ballroom” as it is also known, is a highly-developed, immersive culture that originates in the working class, black/Latin@, LGBTQ/drag subcultures of New York City, and more recently other major cities in the United States. Like hip-hop, it encompasses many different forms of self-expression, from music and dancing to art and fashion, while highlighting alternative modes of gender, race and class expression. Without being overtly “political”, vogue culture deals directly with highly politicised issues.
The UK was one of the first early adopters of Chicago house music, not to mention other black-originating music genres from the States like jazz, soul and hip-hop. It’s also traditionally pretty accepting of queer culture, from homegrown heroes like David Bowie and Elton John all the way to the commercial success of acts like the Scissor Sisters. So you would think that the UK would be the perfect breeding ground for vogue. In my experience though, that has not been the case. That’s not to say that there is no voguing happening in the UK, but that, for once, we are far behind some of our European neighbours when it comes to the acceptance and adoption of an American dance music subculture.
Britain is not completely bereft of vogue. There have been (and still are) some highly respected voguers in this country. The House of Child was Britain’s first ever vogue house, which was formed in the late ’80s by the professional dancer and choreographer Les Child, inspired by the voguing he was seeing over in the States:
Les Child: “I would go to New York about three or four times a year back in the day, because that was the place to party. It was a bigger world then, you didn’t have the internet and it was like taking a rocket ship and going somewhere else. At the time I was a dancer, I would do some bits of choreography for friends, for films and for pop videos. I was dancing with Michael Clarke at the time, so I would go to New York with him a lot.IMA READ THAT BITCH
“I went to house balls there in the mid 1980s, they were these amazing events. Otherworldly was a good way of describing it! It was like nothing I’d ever seen, it went on for hours, it was a bit intimidating because it was a different culture, a different attitude, a different language, the whole thing. But it was just so brilliant and so captivating. And of course it came from the black experience.”