Ball Vocab 5: Details on Styles of Performance

In this series of “Ball Vocab” posts, the vocabulary and descriptions have been adapted from several excellent and comprehensive lists maintained by House of Enigma, and reorganized here for ease of use in the rehearsal room. Terms in red appear in the playtext. Please note that definitions and slang are, by nature, flexible, and may change in specificity or connotation depending on who you’re talking to.  Lists are not comprehensive.

{Links in the text below provide video examples of dance,
competitions, and music.}

A wide range of styles has evolved over the years. There are two main divisions: “Old Way” (60’s, 70’s and 80’s) and “New Way” (90’s and beyond). Also, BQ (Butch Queen) technique is traditionally separate from that of the FQs (Femme Queens), with styles loosely based at opposite ends of the masculine/feminine continuum.

Old Way Performance deals more with style and acrobats, like its younger cousin breaking (breakdancing), but can still be dissected even further. In the earlier days, break dancers would “clash” with the voguers at places like New York’s Central Park or Washington Square Park, and the exchanges of techniques developed an odd but respectable rapport between the two groups. The results of these exchanges created “Lofting,” named after the now defunct New York club “The Loft,” where you could find the closeted and otherwise “banjie” boys combining vogue arm movements with their break dance floor work. This would then lead to ball categories such as Lofting vs. Pop Dip and Spin.

Pop Dip and Spin was developed as a result of BQs combining FQ technique with break dance moves. Back then, the FQs performance was characterized by freeze-frame poses and fluid hand and arm movements, but never dipping — they didn’t want to risk ruining their hair, makeup and/or gowns. But the BQs weren’t “dolled up,” so they had more freedom of movement, and could take it to an extreme. The battle-like aspect was further displayed through actually locking and pinning the opponent, while still maintaining a graceful performance.

New Way involves displaying ones physical flexibility, coupled with slight-of-hand arm and wrist illusions. “Arms Control” plays a large role, as the practitioners’ limbs become kinetic sculptures or the gears and mechanisms in an amusement park ride. While Old Way encourages “in your face” action, New Way vets usually aren’t allowed to touch their opponents. The battle is rendered through exhibition. The constant evolution of the dance widens the New Way range, but the styles prior to the 80’s will always be classified as Old Way.

A new generation of BQ’s, however, has created yet another category, by taking FQ technique and exaggerating it even further: BQ Vogueing Femme. Catwalking (upright sashaying) and duck-walking (a squatting/scooting/bouncing motion) dominates. Lunges, dives and other “suicide” dips are incorporated, in an attempt to accent the surprise sound effects that strike throughout certain dance tracks (i.e., Jim Carey’s dance remix of “Cuban Pete”; George Kantz’s 80’s classic,”Din Da Da“; Masters At Work’s crowd pleaser, “The Ha Dance“; and Kevin Aviance’s anthem, “Cunty“). The emphasis is on how flamboyant one can be through movement alone. These competitions are often divided between the soft/dainty performers (“Angels” or “Soft and Cunt”) and the “drama” queens that incorporate BQ-based antics (“Devils” or “Dramatics”).

Choreography Starter Pack

Thanks to choreographer Alex Davis, we have a collection of videos that are forming the baseline for our ensemble movement work. Check it:

For the Fates…
Spike Lee’s School DaZE & Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath”

And Javier Ninja: What is Vogue?