Ball Culture

Voguing is the perfect fusion of fashion and dance cultures. Showing out is the name of the game and the competition is fierce - contestants are judged on their look as much as their skill. So whether you are a convincing drag queen, a talented designer or a hot dancer, form a house, take it to the ball, strike a pose and WERK IT MS THING!
"Voguing is like a challenge dance - instead of fighting you take it out on the dance floor."
Willi Ninja, the legendary House Of Ninja.
"Vogue or "voguing" is a highly stylized, modern house dance, that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom dance scene. Vogue was originally popularized in the late 1980s, within the inner-city club scenes of the United States. It gained mainstream attention when featured by Malcolm McLaren in his Deep In Vogue #1 single in 1989, and by Madonna in her song and video of the same name, and has recently been returned to domestic and international attention again by the dance group Vogue Evolution of America's Best Dance Crew.
Vogue is characterized by model-like poses, inspired by Vogue, integrated with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg and body movements. The style of dance arose from Harlem ballrooms in the early 1930s. However, in London the main aspect of the ballroom scene is not voguing but the runway categories dealing with fashion and design."

"It is generally acknowledged that Paris Dupree started the action of voguing, i.e. specifically freeze frame dancing, and laying it out on the floor. However, most would agree that the real origin of the ball is the "church fashion show" in African American communities - i.e. all the ladies putting on their best outfits and doing a mock fashion parade."
Daniel Wang, dj / founder of Balihu Records.

"Vogueing didn't develop in clubs; it developed in some bars and the drag balls scene. There's info on the historic rise of drag balls (pre vogueing) in the book "Gay New York" by George Chauncey. Chi Chi Valenti wrote an important piece about the houses for Details magazine. Then of course there's the film Paris Is Burning..."
Tim Lawrence, author of Love Saves The Day / Hold On To Your Dreams.

Ball culture, the house system, the ballroom community and similar terms describe the underground LGBT subculture in the United States in which people "walk" (i.e. compete) for trophies and prizes at events known as balls. Those who walk often also dance and vogue while others compete in various genres of drag often trying to pass as a specific gender and social class. Most people involved with ball culture belong to "houses" led by a single leader.

"Houses", also called "drag houses" or "drag families", are groups composed primarily of transgender people, the majority of which are African American or Latino, banded together under a respected "house mother" (sometimes a drag queen or a transgender person, but not always) or even a "house father".

The best known houses are New York City groups, especially those such as the House of Corey, the House of LaBeija, the House of Ninja, the House of Pendavis, the House of Garavani and House of Xtravaganza that were shown in the 1990 documentary film Paris Is Burning. Other houses function similarly in many United States but mainly focused in major cities on the East Coast, in the Midwest and South (i.e. House Of Infiniti , House of Mizrahi, House of Aviance, etc.)

According to the Village Voice:

...houses are loose-knit, typically same sex, confederacies of "children" who adopt a family name, usually swiped from a fashion designer, and adhere to rules set up by a presiding "mother" and "father."

Members of the house led by Willi Ninja, for example, adopt "Ninja" as their surname within ball culture, members of the house led by Anji Xtravaganza used the surname "Xtravaganza" and members of the house led by Avis Pendavis used the surname Pendavis such as Deborah, Kim, and Freddy and so on.

One theme discussed in Paris Is Burning is that people of color, queers, and poor people face certain disadvantages and are each a marginalized group; to qualify as all three makes one a pariah. In response, drag houses are:

...a whole new way of living, one that's highly structured and self-protective. The structure consists of system of houses where the young men function as apprentices. Reflecting a minority coping with hatred, the houses are associations of friends, presided over by a "mother," [...] that provide a substitute for biological families.

Under the house parents are:

...a big raucous band of "children": drag queens, butch queens, transsexuals - mostly MTF but some FTM, a few non-trans girls and one or two straight guys. The smattering of girls and straight guys notwithstanding, the houses are, essentially, cabals of young black and Hispanic men obsessed with being fashionable and fabulous.

House parents can provide wisdom, guidance and care for young people who otherwise might be homeless and without a parental figure. An exploratory study of two houses in Newark, New Jersey employed qualitative research methods including participant observation and in-depth interviewing to discern that:

Strategies employed by "house parents" have had an impact on the choices made by children of the houses regarding HIV risk behaviors. These strategies can be adapted for use by well-established community-based HIV prevention programs when they are comprised of staff who mirror the characteristics of "house parents" and engage in relationships that parallel this alternative family structure.


The main function of these houses is to "walk" or compete against one another in "balls" in which they are judged on dance skills, costume, general appearance, and attitude. Participants dress according to category in which they are competing and are expected to display appropriate "realness".

While these competitive walks may involve crossdressing, in other cases the goal is to accentuate a male participant's masculinity or a female participant's femininity so as to give the (almost always false) impression that the walker is heterosexual.the main function of these houses is to "walk" or compete against one another in "balls" in which they are judged on dance skills, costume, general appearance, and attitude. Participants dress according to category in which they are competing and are expected to display appropriate "realness".

Horse Meat Disco Vogue Ball 2010 (featuring the House of LVB's very own Miss Chris)
Paris is Burning "Drag Realness"
Paris is Burning "Willi Ninja"
Paris is Burning "WORRRRRRRK!"
Malcolm McLaren & The Bootzilla Orchestra "Deep In Vogue"
featuring dancers from the legendary House Of Ninja
There are lots more videos (including new school vogue battles and some classic tracks) at the Menergy Fierce Ruling Divas Ball event page.!/event.php?eid=157931410892575
If you want to walk at the ball (and be in with a chance to win £50 worth of make-up from Illamasqua) please fill out one of the forms here:
Please note that if you fill in a form and get reduced entry, you WILL be expected to walk.
There are five categories for contestants:
Femme Realness (for boys than can pass as girls),
Butch Queen (for super-manly fags),
Drag Virgin (first time in drags at a ball),
Dragstravaganza (super-extreme and OTT in every way),
Dykon (a category for our sistas who wanna WERQ it)
There are further reduced entry prices for "houses" who want to enter, with a minimum of three and a maximum of five participants per house.
Judges on the night will include Jon of the Pleased Wimmin, Camille of Che Camille and Graham Peel of Dolby Anol.
MENERGY Gay Dance Party: