When Isla Jones Chanel got her start as a dancer and artist in New York, she and her peers loved to mimic the Vogue style on the dance floor. After moving to LA, Isla found that the downtown club scene was even thirstier for this form. So she founded Banjee Ball, a monthly party hosted at SPiN Standard at The Standard, Downtown LA, to create a space where the Ballroom community and the club kids could mix and mingle. Standard Culture asked Jones Chanel to explain the history and teach us (mere mortals), the basic moves in .gif form so we'll be ready to vogue come time for the next Banjee Ball on April 10th.
Isla breaking it down on the dance floor
Voguing is a modern American dance style first created in the black and Latino LGBT community. Madonna's 1990 hit "Vogue" is the reference point that grounds most people's understanding. While her song and video helped catapult the art form - as well as the careers of some of Vogue's most accomplished dancers - in fact, it's a cultural movement rooted in the fight against oppression, racism, and homophobia.
Vogue's origins date back to the early 1900s in Harlem, where Drag Balls (competitions) were organized for the Black community in reaction to the racist and often exclusive Drag balls happening elsewhere in Manhattan. By the ‘60s, Ballroom culture was in full effect, and collective "houses" formed to create a safe place and family structure for young queer kids who were often rejected by their biological families and were essentially homeless. At a Ball, the houses function like teams at a sporting event. While competition is the structure of a ball, it’s the creative and community experience that animates ballroom culture. For kids who are a target of hate and confusion in the outside world, the runway is a safe zone to express their creativity and talent. It's a for them to feel fabulous and special.
Inspired by Vogue Magazine, dancers would mimic fashion and runway models with hand gestures and poses. Originally called presentation, it later took on the term performance, and eventually came back to its inspiration: Vogueing.
A Ball consists of a judge’s panel, a commentator (or MC), and the contestants who compete in numerous categories for the trophy. The categories can be quite nuanced to ensure there is a little something for everyone. European Model, American Model, Butch Queen Vogue Femme, Female Figure, and Realness with a Twist are examples of categories you would see at a traditional Ball. When someone enters a category, they are "walking". If the judge's panel approves of what someone brought to the runway, a contestant is given a score of "10s across the board" and becomes eligible to compete. After a series of battles in which the commentator and spectators chant to encourage and energize the dancers, a winner is decided.
Today, there are three basic styles of Voguing: Old Way, New Way, and Vogue Femme. Old Way uses shapes and poses, while New Way – built off of Old Way - uses more flexibility and gymnastics. The Vogueing seen in Madonna's video is a combination of Old and New Way. In the mid ‘90s Vogue Femme evolved into a dramatic, overtly feminine style. Vogue Femme consists of five elements: Catwalk, Hands, Spins and Dips, Duckwalks, and Floor Performance.
Hands: Telling a story through hand and arm movements. New Way vogue uses sharp lines and angles while Vogue Femme keeps a soft, limp wrist with circular movements.
Catwalk: Walking like a cat: deliberate and feminine. The movement is a side-to-side hip sway with the feet carefully stepping in a rhythmic pattern while the arms move in opposition overhead.
Duckwalk: Walking like a duck in a squatted position, much like the traditional Russian folk dancing. Duckwalks challenge the dancer to maintain sensual movement while in a deep squat, and this deep squat is often a launching pad for tricks, spins and dips.
Spins and Dips
Spins/Dips: Spinning, turning, or rotating the body for dramatic effect. Often the spin will end in a fall to the floor, or a dip, though not all dips start in a spin. A soft dip will move to the floor in a cunning manner. A death drop a dip that starts from standing and immediately falls to the floor.
The Dip Position: like a split, but with one leg bent, and the other in the air, and the head and torso are arched back onto the bent leg.
Floor Performance: Using the floor to express sensuality through rolling, twisting, posing, dipping, arching, and stretching.
Isla performs with her husband under the name Purple Crush, and as a voguer in the House of Chanel. She has toured dance clubs and festivals in North America and Europe for almost ten years and was a formative act in the dance movement EDM. She and her husband have produced original music for artists like Lady Gaga and Ru Paul's Drag Race winner, Raja. Isla has choreographed with MOCA, and for artists LE1F and Cherie Lily.
Special thanks to our featured dancer, Ryku Bella.