It isn’t a surprise that UCLA has a strong and thriving dance community when the school boasts a student body of over 40,000 students. Groups like ACA Hip Hop exist for competitive dancers and organizations like Foundations Choreography exist for complete beginners. The abundance of hip hop and contemporary dance groups at UCLA allows for anyone to get into the art form.
Though hip hop and contemporary dance styles reign over all other forms at UCLA, student groups such as Samahang Pilipino and VSU maintain both contemporary and traditional dance components and clubs like Dancesport teach ballroom dance.
However, UCLA lacks any organized group that performs vogue dance. To understand the origins of vogue, we have to first look at the unique ball culture that originated in the east coast. Ball culture started underground in Harlem, a predominantly poor and black neighborhood of New York City. Essentially, ball culture was a reaction to the open hostility that popular culture had for queer people of color, for those who didn’t fit the status quo.
To escape racism and homophobia, people started to congregate in events called balls where they would hold competitions that allowed participants to express themselves in the taboo ways that mainstream society shunned them for. Men would dress up as women and compete against each other to look the most femme. Other categories included dressing up as particular characters, such as schoolboy realness and executive realness where people dressed up to look like real schoolboys or real business people. One of the most important categories was the runway or catwalk, where contestants walked and posed to live the life of glamor they looked up to and wanted to emulate.
As contestants walked down the runway, they would copy poses gleaned from the pages of Vogue magazine. Thus, the runway category eventually led way to the creation of vogue as a dance form and ball category of its own. Rather than explain it, a visual art form like dance is better appreciated by the eye. This article includes a video of new way vogue.
Today, what was once a subversive cultural movement is now in the spotlight as the mainstream music industry incorporates vogue choreography into its music videos, giving the art form unprecedented exposure to popular audiences.
Starting in 1990 with Madonna’s appropriately penned song “Vogue,” which pays homage to the decades old dance form, and appearing more recently in music videos like Snakehips’ “Forever (Pt. II),” vogue is now more in the public eye than ever. Vogue was also featured in the popular American show, So You Think You Can Dance.
Vogue started in Harlem and it stayed there for decades. Now, thanks to globalization, there are now vogue houses, or groups, practicing the dance form in cities like Paris and London, but also much closer to home like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The dance scene at UCLA might benefit from embracing the vogue dance style, which is so deeply rooted in American history and becoming increasingly relevant today. Its proponents stress the dance style’s freedom of expression and message of being yourself. UCLA prides itself on being ahead of the pack in almost every category; so why doesn’t it in this one?