“DEEP IN VOGUE”— Needing to Vogue

“Deep In Vogue”

Needing to Vogue

Amos Lassen

Directors Amy Watson and Dennis Keighron-Foster celebrate the colorful, queer, emotional and political stories of Northern Vogue and its people in their new film, “Deep in Vogue”. Vogueing has become synonymous with the black, gay ballrooms of 1980s New York and this documentary asks why we need Vogue in Manchester, England now more than ever.

Vogueing powerfully re-surged in the UK in 2018 and has been described as “Paris Fashion Week on Crack” or “Like a second birthday for everyone,” this is politically charged art in a post-Brexit, austerity ravaged Britain. This documentary is a history lesson and a snap-shot of how things stand for the marginalized now and as a wish for the future. In this intimate portrait of the scene, the focus is pointed at the colorful, queer houses of Manchester; “House of Ghetto”, an exclusively black and female Vogue House, and “House of Decay”, a trans and queer led House. We watch as these houses prep for the House of Suarez Icons Ball and explore what the culture means to them and why they need Vogue now more than ever. 

Vogueing and the ballroom scene of Harlem have created cultural ripples through the decades and across continents. It has been appropriated, reassembled, packaged, sold and on many occasions sold out. Madonna was one of the first mainstream artists to acknowledge it in a very visible way but there are remains of its impact on many different styles in fashion, music and dance. 

This is the most recent iteration outlining the impact of voguing on the contemporary club scene in Manchester.  The documentary begins with the UK cast trying to explain what vogueing meant to the disenfranchised black gays of Harlem. Footage from the actual Harlem ballroom scene with its racial politics, unique dance moves and gender fluidity is that much more compelling than what we have here. The first voices announce a distance between their background as story tellers and the content that feels inauthentic at worst or redundant at best. 

‘Deep in Vogue’ is an easy target to talk about cultural appropriation but it is much more interesting when the lens is flipped. The real story here is how Manchester has always taken influences from around the world, remixed them and then add its own tastes.

From a Manchester perspective there is here a visible and vocal presence of people who are of mixed racial backgrounds. In the Great Britain, a large percentage of people who identify as ‘non- white’ have one parent who is white. This itself contributes to a very distinct difference from the African American roots of vogue. 

The other aesthetics owe as much to the conventions and formats of “Britain’s Got Talent” as they do to a Harlem ballroom. The influence of the 90s Manchester club scene is omnipresent. Clubs were seminal in bringing together gays and straights under a single veneer of fashion and debauchery. This is a very Manchester version of vogueing and we have white, straight cisgendered women duck walking, dipping and dropping along with transwomen, gay men and the non-binary. 

The documentary brings in politics by showing that if American politics are built on race then Manchester politics are built on class. “The participants eagerly articulate that the appeal for them of vogueing is its sense of socialism. It is about sharing resources and skills horizontally and vertically so that ‘each person is lifted up and allowed to shine’.”

There is a lot of talent here and they are ready to be in the spotlight. There is no thought of stealing that spotlight.  We see everyday people dancing along with a little bit of socialism.

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