Ball Vocab 6: Other Lingo of Ball & House Culture

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.

Beat one’s face
To apply the perfect amount of makeup, perfectly. For example: “her face is beat!”

Bring (It)
A challenge; call of defiance; “Come on down, you’re the next contestant…” Sometimes contestants are allowed to “call out” a rival

Come (for)
To challenge; “Don’t come for me, ’cause you don’t want it…”

Craft(ed)
Obtained by illegal means — credit card or check writing scams usually; “Miss Thing, that Galliano gown was crafted….” (synonym: Stunkus)

Father/Mother
A house leader (without regard to gender)

Feel (it)
To be totally absorbed in the moment

Live (verb)
(Rhymes with “give”) to enjoy oneself immensely; “I lived at that last ball!”

Mopping
Shoplifting

Pay (it)
To ignore and move on, as in an unfavorable judges’ decision; “Pay it. We’ll get her after the ball”

Prince(ss)
That son or daughter most likely to take the lead as mother or father, should the current parents not continue their role; “Heir to the Throne”

See
Acknowledge or give credit; “No shade, but I don’t see it”.

Uglina
Fictional character created to represent unfavorable elements of the ball scene: excessive shade, petty bickering, etc.

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”).

Ball Vocab 4: Jargon 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.

 

Battle
A tie-breaker; a chance for the contestant to show up his opponent.

Box Dip
A floor pose that consists of positioning the forearms flat on the floor, legs over the head, with feet planted to the floor in front

Cat-walk
Upright Vogue Femme sashaying

Chants
Clever rhymes and raps used by the emcee to liven up an competition

Chop (or to be chopped)
To disqualify (as in contestant); process of elimination…”Thank you, have a nice day.” Also “pack”

Clicking
A contortion involving the arms manipulated up over the head and down behind ones back, keeping the hands locked together.

Death Drop
A type of dance when a dancer dramatically falls backwards into a struck pose on the ground, usually to end a dance, often after a spin or jump. It looks so dangerous that it might kill the dancer, but is actually a controlled move. Also: suicide dip.

Dip
In vogueing, a ground-level stunt

Duck-walk
Crouching, foot-sliding and scooting movement requiring balance on the balls of the feet. Sashaying in a squatted position

Grand March
The opening ceremonies. The hosting house’s members are introduced, along with the categories they represent. Mother and Father are introduced last, for maximum effect

Hairpin
An extreme backbend dip where your butt touches your head

Hand Performance
Illusions, precision, or flamboyant interpretation executed through that part of the body; see also Arms Control

Hi-Yah!
Disqualification from competition or a category, taken from the fictitious Karate cry; also “chop” or “pack”

Kansai
An “Old Way” dip, inspired by a mannequin in a Kansai Yamamoto boutique window (NYC, circa ’70s)

Locking
Jerky, tense movement of the body, also Popping; also, in a vogue battle, pinning or restraining an opponent with part of your body while performing

Lofting
A dance performed by banjie or straight boys that combined vogueing arm movements with break dance floor work, named after the now defunct New York dance club where it was practiced (The Loft)

Makeveli
A “suicide” dip, requiring a fall to the floor, landing on the back, using one leg as a lever; a prat fall

New Way
The vogueing styles starting in the 90’s. Includes Arms Control, with body contortions.

Old Way
The vogueing styles previous to the 80’s. See also “Pop, Dip and Spin”

Peeling
A runway stunt in which you remove garment layers gracefully, down to your best ensemble

Pop, Dip and Spin
An earlier name for the dance now called vogueing, with a style leaning toward graceful acrobats, and transitions that alternate between standing and floor positions; also “Performance”

Popping
Freeze frame, staccato-like movement

Punish
To greatly surpass in performance. Also “destroy”

Pyramid
Several voguers performing together, tiered one in front of the other

Reading
The art of insults; finding a flaw in your opponent and verbally showcasing and exaggerating it (also “Deadly Daggers”); giving someone a “piece of your mind”

Scorpion
Martial art inspired Old Way dip, requiring a prone position, with one leg dangling over the head

Shwam!
Exclaimed by an emcee when a contestant executes a suicide dip. (See also Makeveli)

Snatch
To win

Shade (Throwing)
Underhanded dealings, where usually the “jokes on you”; “Judge number two threw me shade…”

Tens, Getting Your
To get a perfect score from the whole judges’ panel, 10 being the highest.

Turn (it)
To make a grand show; bring the ballroom to its feet; also “work,” “sell” and “serve” (all usually accompanied by “goddammit” or “bitch”)

Walk
To enter a category; “Miss Thing, you should not walk for “Face”

Ball Vocab 2: Competition Categories

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.

 

Whatever categories are offered, contestants must adhere to the requirements given, to avoid disqualification or low scoring (getting “chopped”) before an eagerly cheering and jeering audience (a vicious “Gong Show,” if you will). This brings about the question of “shade”: who’s throwing it and how much. Judges can be quite finicky when it comes to exact interpretation, and it’s up to the emcee or a head judge to settle disputes that may erupt from time to time. Generally, everyone’s a good sport, but you do get poor losers here and there.

Amazon
For runway contestants, the tall division, regardless to gender

Arms Control
A category solely dedicated to the dexterity and coordination of ones “sleight-of-hand” arm and wrist movements; hand tricks and illusions

Big Boy/Girl
A class of ball competitors, usually 250 lbs. and over; “Luscious” for the ladies

Bizarre
Offers the widest range of creativity and display. From “Futuristic” to “Fantasy,” the objective is to always present an elaborate costume and effect. There are specific favorites like “Foil vs. Plastic,” but often the category is more general in scope.

Body
The judges will be looking for someone who looks attractive, and healthy. Do not confuse this with sexiness, as there is a completely different category for that.

Butch Queen (BQ)
A gay male, ranging from “straight acting” to flamboyant

BQ in Drag
A gay male in women’s clothes that is not taking hormones. Some can actually pass for women, but this is not required unless specified by the category

Commentator vs. Commentator
Allows aspiring (and current) MCs to showcase their ability to hype the crowd

Designers’ Delite
A category for aspiring designers and home sewers. “The garment must be made by YOU!”

Dipology
Like Vogue Femme, with spins into dips only

Face
A category to determine who has a classically beautiful face. Judges examine the eyes, the nose, the teeth, the lips and the structure of the face. While the category may call for an effect, ultimately the judges will only look at the face of a competitor, which should not have much makeup and should appear flawless.

Grand Prize
Usually requires the efforts of 3 or more people per entry. You may have to create a skit, or put on some type of production in the theme of the event. Close attention must be paid to costume, music, props and overall showmanship. This is one of many categories that can bring a ballroom to its feet, when you consider the lengths that contestants will go to satisfy a frenzied crowd.

Male Body (Men or BQ)
“Muscular” (body builders) vs “Models” (not as beefy; magazine quality)

Male Face (Men or BQ)
“Masculine” (allows groomed facial hair) vs “Pretty Boy” (smooth and clear complexion). Sometimes “Face” is further divided between “Light and Lovely” vs “Brown and Lovely” vs “Dark and Lovely”

Midget
For runway contestants, the petite or short division; anyone shorter than male/female model industry standards

Male: Models vs. Muscular Body
Two separate categories, the later leans toward bodybuilding

Open To All (OTA)
Does not designate gender or persuasion, but you may have to meet other requirements, such as a specific prop or costume.

Realness
Role playing down to the smallest of details. For example, if the category is “FQ Realness,” all traces of one’s biological maleness must be virtually erased (or at least hidden). In contrast, “BQ Realness” requires complete camouflage of anything remotely perceived as “gay”: you appear to be a straight man. Realness With a Twist (Twister) – Judged on participants’ ability to blend in with heterosexuals, then returning in vogue

Runway/Models Effect
Requirements vary greatly, with contestants displaying home-sewn garments (“Designer’s Delight”) or high fashion ready-to-wear like Prada or Gucci (“Labels”). Sometimes the contestants are judged solely on their walking ability. In these instances, you are free to choose any outfit that will make you “feel it.” Some subcategories: European Runway – Often a butch-queen category, featuring effects seen in a European fashion show. American Runway – Similar to European Runway, featuring butch queens, trans men or Butches/Studs

Sex Siren
Participants will do their best to tease, and titillate the judges. Some do so by stripping all their clothes off, others do it through erotic dancing, and some combine the two in order to attempt to win

Vogue
• Not to be confused with drag, lip syncing, or posing (all separate categories)
• Stylized jazz dance created by the african american gay community, with its own separate divisions and requirements.
• A true voguer SEAMLESSLY combines the disciplines of a diverse range of movement: martial arts, jazz/modern dance, gymnastics and yoga, among others. Beyond this, there is still a particular execution that distinguishes vogueing from other dances. Structured around distinct hand and arm movements, the voguer must keep time with the beat of the music, as well as accentuate the various changes in the music. Improvisation is driven by the build-up and break-down of baselines, rhythms, sound effects and vocals.
• Starting out as a category called “Performance,” the dance took on the name “Vogue” during the late 70’s, when practitioners started borrowing ideas from the more extreme photo layouts of current fashion magazines.

Vogueing Femme
A dance style that takes the femme queen technique and exaggerates it even further: pronounced hip movement, cha-cha-based footwork (often in stocking-feet for maximum slide), peppered with classic striptease gestures. Execution ranges from soft and dainty to dramatic and severe

Verbal Vogue
A category created to test your sharp wit in the art of insults. Contestants are often made to sit in separate chairs and exchange turns at the mic to “roast” each other. Thin-skinned patrons need not apply! Also “Reading,” or “Deadly Daggers”

Women’s Face (Female or FQ)
“Painted” (allows makeup) vs “Unpainted” (no makeup)

Women’s Body (Female or FQ)
• “Luscious” (full-figured, but sexy) vs “Models” (swimsuit quality)
• “Shoplifting Models” vs. “Luscious” full-figured, but sexy)

Ball Vocab 1: Contestant Categorizations

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.

For the sake of fair competition, the contestants themselves are categorized as:

Butches

A masculine female, usually lesbian, but any female possessing manly appearance and mannerisms can qualify, regardless to sexual preference. Sometimes referred to as “male illusionists.”

Butch Queens (BQs)

Gay males, regardless to which end of the masculine/ feminine scale they choose to identify with, ranging from “straight acting” to flamboyant (the category specifics determine which way to lean).

BQ in Drag

A gay male in women’s clothes that is not taking hormones. Some can actually pass for women, but this is not required unless specified by the category. They may have their own categories, or compete with the FQs in some instances.

Femme Queens (FQs)

Males at varying stages of gender reassignment; from the time they starts taking female hormones, they are no longer BQs. When you have a biologically androgynous male, there exists the flexibility to compete in categories designated for either BQs or FQs, provided there aren’t any additional prerequisites.

Women (or Female)

Biological. This division does not demand a particular sexual orientation, but does lean toward a feminine demeanor.

Men

Denotes contestants from the “straight” pool of patrons that still attend these functions. “Male” is used in other cases where sexual preference has no bearing on a particular category’s fairness, such as with “Best Dressed Male” or “Male Muscular Body.”