Niall Connolly delves into the history and enduring popularity of “voguing” and “ballroom”:
To be clear, “ballroom” takes it name from the venues in which the “ball” events take place, and is not to be confused with the “strictly” kind of ballroom. Like hip hop, ballroom encompasses many different elements of artistic expression, from music and language to clothes and design, and, of course, dance. It deals directly with some of society’s most controversial issues, namely sexuality, race, class, gender roles and expression, beauty modes, self-definition and competition. It doesn’t do this in the polemical style we may be used to from punk and political hip-hop, however, where topics are theorised and discussed. In ballroom these issues are lived and experienced, as a vast number of those taking part in this underground scene are transgender, working class, people of colour.
Ballroom includes society’s most marginalised: minorities within minorities within minorities, for whom voguing and ballroom culture is an important resource. In a world where they have been rejected, ballroom not only accepts these people for who they are, it celebrates them, in a variety of unique and different categories. The competitive, prize-winning aspect of ballroom gives some participants a sense of worth lacking in the “real” world (not to mention money), and the familial structure of the “houses”—mother, father, sister, brother—often acts as a real surrogate, as many in this world have been disowned by their biological families.
(Video: A scene from the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning)