Beijing held its first-ever large-scale vogue ball last Saturday. Contestants got a chance to strut their stuff in categories like “Butch Queen Realness,” “Drag Queen Lip Sync,” and “Voguing Open To All.”
“It’s a playground for marginalized groups,” Li “Bazi” Yifan, ball organizer and member of the Shanghai-based Kiki House of Kawakubo, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The ball allows attendees “a very strong sense of vitality,” he said, “because a lot of sexual and gender minorities express themselves with a spirit of resistance.”
Amid the backdrop of China’s conservative culture, voguing — a stylized form of modern dance that is rooted in 1960s Harlem ballrooms — has offered young queer folks a chance to express themselves without fear of judgment or social isolation. “You can express your sexuality, your sensuality,” performer Huahua, one of Saturday’s competitors, told AFP. “You’re serving looks on stage like: I’m beautiful and fierce.”
Sixth Tone reports that voguing was first popularized on China’s mainland by dancer Irina Bashuk, who immigrated from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, and who later founded the Kiki House of Kawakubo. There are now three voguing houses on the mainland, as well as a promotional platform, Voguing Shanghai. This platform had previously organized Millennium Storm, the mainland’s first major vogue ball hosted in Shanghai last December.
“Voguing has really blossomed here in the past two years,” said Huahua to AFP. “Right now, the scene is very young, but it’s also very enthusiastic and passionate. It’s like cuttings being planted everywhere that are now taking root.”
Reporting on Beijing’s vogue ball first appeared in AFP and was later republished in the South China Morning Post (SCMP).