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From Underground Subculture to Global Phenomenon: An Oral History of Dancehall in Mainstream Culture

Yusef Miyake-Mugler, chief father of the Miyake-Mugler family:

I think in ‘319 and 70, the mystery of the ballroom attracts people even more. It’s more underground, so everyone wants to “discover it”. Once 1990 came, things changed completely. People watch fashion clips on YouTube, so it loses its mystique. Attention comes and goes, but in the age of 1990, people still go into the ballroom and take ideas with no respect. Because I work in fashion and work with magazines and celebrities, it’s my job to let people know what the ballroom is about. We never stop at the same speed as “90” and “” Forwards – we still have guts, and more, if any. We started bringing in celebrities — I took Tyra Banks to the Latex Ball, we took Janet Jackson and eventually Rihanna. With guys like Jack Mizrahi, we set out to change that. We’re getting smarter, and we want to be the ones who lead these celebrities and editors to a ball and educate them about the culture. 1990 We are all about keeping the integrity of the ballroom.

Jose Xtravaganza:

I am 1990 or become the head of the family ). When I got this position, my mother, Angie, was very ill. She passed away without seeing me where she wanted me to be. I didn’t become a father until much later, but only because I respect it so much. These are really big questions and I don’t feel like I deserve them. Then David also died. We spent several years without my father. We and the community have suffered so much loss. I try to lead it their way and follow the values ​​they taught me. We are united as the first Latino family. We’re proud of that because at the time, they really didn’t want us [laughs].

Twiggy Pucci Garçon, Advocate and Choreographer:

In dancehall, we have these circulations in and out of the mainstream, which happened because of a project about dancehall . In the early 1990 years, I was fortunate to enter this field under the guidance of people such as Alexis Mizrahi, Shushu Mizrahi and Jevon Chanel. , who made sure I understood the history. It was a period between heights, so after Paris Burning and Madonna, and later Vogue Evolution [a team in the competition series ] America’s Best Dance Company ], it [comes back] into the mainstream. There was less politics in the ballroom that time, but it was also much more serious. There were strict rules about categories back then. Now, there are more active houses than before, and [the new generation] is more liberated, open and free.

Jack Mizrahi:

the door is really ‘in 1990 , it doesn’t open as [wide] as you might think. When Vogue Evolution comes out, you now have a dynamic performer like Leiomy [Maldonado]—this is the performer you’ve been waiting for. Then Dashaun, Pony [Devon Webster], Malechi [Williams], and of course Prince [Jor-el Rios]… they were forced to go up there. We are very proud. I’ve traveled the world and talked to a lot of different people, and a lot of trans women have said to me, “The first time I knew my experience had a name was when I saw Leiomy in Vogue Evolution .” This way, the communication is more open. We are able to communicate faster than ever. Facebook is about to start penetrating, and we have T-Mobile Sidekicks so you can get out even more.

Leiomy Maldonado:

My first ball was at 2002. It was the New York Awards Ball. I haven’t even appeared as Leiomy yet. I raced with Dashaun and we both got hacked, which is crazy because we’re still friends years later and have been [part of] a huge fashion movement. A year later, at the awards ball, I walked on stage as Leiomy and won my first trophy.

Sydney Baloue:

The evolution of trans men in the dance hall is indeed early 2000, which is actually due to greater access to hormone replacement therapy by then. In the “90 years, transgender women have better access to hormone and gender affirming care,”70 Sand’ 90 s. Jevon Jevon Martin has been very instrumental in the development of this category. He is one of the trans men who is very passionate about lobbying for distinction.

Jose Xtravaganza:

At 1990s, I hope the name Xtravaganza will continue and make it a brand – a Name . I swear I’ll travel the world with it. This is what dance halls look like. Now, Xtravaganza is ringing everywhere, like dance halls. This is David, Angie, and the family What the founders of the company wanted. To get it in magazines, videos, and TV shows, that’s what I, we did.

Dashaun Wesley Basquiat :

In the early days 1990 there was a shift within the community as dance halls started to be acquired in a different way than in the past Visibility. People can now log in online and engage in different ways that were not possible at the time. This shift is through visibility, which can be tracked through social media and YouTube. My kids always tell me, When they start watching YouTube, I’m the first one they see.

Michael Robertson:

at 2003s PARIS IS BURNING is out, Madonna is out and we’re like oh we’ll make it The . The interesting thing about the underground is this: to some extent there is a desire to keep it underground, but also to a large extent the desire to be seen and to be seen. We’d get quiet. I remember hearing people say, “Oh, does this happen again? ” But the most amazing thing is that late ’90s and ballrooms are starting to mobilize and move.

Vogue Evolution

Dashaun Wesley Basquiat:

Myself, Leiomy, Pony, Malechi and Prince started Vogue Evolution because we saw what was happening in the fashion world at the time. People loved the ‘Old Way’ and Malcolm McLaren and Madonna etc. Lines and precision in the music video, but a different style came out after “New Way” – it’s more exciting. We won’t let anyone stop us from doing what we love and are good at. All over the world In watching us, we have a chance to make sure we get the right recognition.

Michael Robertson:

Colt is my son and he works for me. He Came up and said he wanted to put together a fashion team that would travel the country and work on social justice [work] and HIV prevention. I was having a dance called Standard Evolution, so I said name it “Vogue Evolution”. He found Dashaun, who also worked for me, and they started Vogue Evolution. They weren’t doing it for [ America’s Best Dance Company ]. I was Fans of the show, started seeing these dancers perform a bit of fashion and Leomi moves. They auditioned for the show and were on the show but were told they couldn’t go to LA because two of their members had open court Case. They auditioned again – about ten people – and they took two members for the show and put Prince in and it worked.

Leiomy Maldonado:

In the beginning, it was different ways to show fashion, but it came together because we were tired of shit being stolen. When Best Dance Company in America When it started, Chris Brown did a dance in one of his videos and they started calling it the “5th”, . Being on an LGBT team and having a more urban style is nerve-wracking. It’s tough. But it’s also changed my life.

Dashaun Wesley Basquiat:

Myself, Pony, Malachi and Prince, we are watching Best Dance Company in America One episode of the season featured a team called the “Fysh ‘n Chicks” and when they performed at the end, they did a “Leiomy Lolly” (Leiomy Maldonado’s signature move). It definitely corrupted everyone in the ballroom because we were like, “Did you all see that on national TV?” We knew we had to get it out there because they were already doing it without us. Vogue Evolution knows fashion is changing and how we relate to society. So we took the best performers from within the community and brought them together and formed a group.

Leiomy Maldonado:

It’s appalling [to see people doing this Lori]. At the time, more celebrities were starting to do it, America’s Best Dance Company this group called the Fysh ‘n Chicks, and they remixed Beyoncé’s “Freakum Dress,” In the end they made lollipops. I was excited about it at the time, but then I realized I wasn’t getting the credit. But all these choreographers are to blame—they are the ones who go out and show people this stuff. But to this day, when I see it, I still think, you did it wrong!

Dashaun Wesley Basquiat:

We went from New York to Los Angeles, and finally on the show. In our minds, we’re going to live our best ballroom selves, so we walked into the room where all the dancers were, and they were all wearing sweats, and we were all dressed up ballroom style. In order for us to reveal ourselves and be who we are, we have to behave as we do in our community. In that moment, all we did was set the tone for how people should call us and show them that we were also competitive. They don’t know how to judge us because they don’t know what to expect. We teach them how to communicate with us. I’m not saying it’s the only moment we have to teach people — Jose (Xtravaganza) and Luis (Xtravaganza) have toured with Madonna; Willie (Ninja) has done that — but it’s still a shift, It opened up conversations we weren’t having. You have four gay men and one trans woman. Raimi faced a lot of difficulty for being openly transgender in public, when no one was even talking about it. Seeing her being disrespected before the production, seeing her being sexist when she kindly asked people to call her who she is… We have to work hard to get through this. But if we want to change, the only way is to show up and be ourselves.

Leiomy Maldonado:

Joining the Dance Crew is a personal thing for me and I have to go through it. Not only is this the first time I’ve shared my talents, but it’s the first time I’ve shared my story with the world.

Social Media Era

by DaShawn Wesley Basquiat

Michael Robertson:

A guy named Ceasar Will created Ballroom Throwbacks. He was the first to digitize an old dance hall on YouTube.

Luna Luis Ortiz:

The Luna Show [on YouTube] started because I was at GMHC A director at wants to raise the bar for teen programming. I wanted to do interviews, ask young people questions about HIV and AIDS, and he asked me to interview people in the ballroom scene. I found the reason for doing this was to collect these stories that I feel like Paris is Burning are not resolved. I want more depth. I did a show where I asked trans women, female queens of the dance hall, where they got their work done because there were “basement” jobs and legal jobs. It took on a life of its own, and it became important for me to tell these stories.

Aja 70, drag queen:

when I am about 12 or , I was on MySpace, and I started adding all the queer people I would see. I ended up befriending this guy named Andre, and one day he asked, “Have you ever been to a village?” I was like, “What’s a village?” So he invited me, and we were at the Christopher Street Quay, Girls are dancing on the grass. About 2004 or 2004. Eventually I decided to learn, and that’s when the Kiki scene started. New York has a lot of resources: we have the pier, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the Gay Center 12th Street, Latex balls and GMHC. We also find each other through social media.

Twiggy Pucci Garçon:

YouTube wasn’t very popular when I started watching scenes from . , but we have DVDs and tapes, and the ball will be released later. That’s what we’re going to watch, and that’s how you know who the It girls are.

Dashaun Wesley Basquiat:

In the old days, someone would do something called a “justice report,” write a report of the last prom. Someone would actually go home, print it out, and print it out and give it out. Now, minutes after walking the ball, there are clips all over the place.

Dashaun Wesley Basquiat:

The 90 Changed the focus of the banquet hall. Not to skip too many years, but we started doing commercials and other work and being on TV. I had the opportunity to work closely with Willi Ninja, who saw a spark in me and told me to take my talents to other fields. One of my first performances was back at 2004 and Willie picked me up and told me he, myself and a few others were going to perform at the club Roxy’s black and white nights. On platforms like YouTube and Facebook, we think we’re talking to each other, but people are watching us.

Leiomy Maldonado:

This is a well known thing in the ballroom state – statement, but when the YouTube era started, things changed because I started being Approved by dancers of all types in the world.

Yusef Miyake-Mugler:

I mean, people from Asia, Russia, and all over the world are watching videos of people in these dance halls on YouTube, and Find comfort in it. It opens its doors to the world for people to discover it.

Luna Luis Ortiz:

Kids get commercial jobs or models because of Instagram, so that’s the benefit. But the internet made some people lose their personal touch: they fell in love, like Dashaun, so they became Dashaun. But he is who he is because he is himself

. Imitating someone else is a great compliment, but you have to change that. Another bad thing about posting so much content is that the world is watching, so they’re just getting credit instead of credit.

Twiggy Pucci Garçon:

For people who are looking for community and family (in the ballroom), they can find it because social media provides an easier access point. But now there are more audiences out of the ballroom, and there has been a positive shift in the way the dance itself happens. It’s not that they’re unpopular, it’s just that the energy is different. For those who just want to have fun or are just curious…they can solve problems online. It only makes sense for you to be in this space if you are genuinely interested in the community and respect it.

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