On April 13, 2019, ballroom artists staged an epic ball competition at the George Peabody Library. Each performance category was based on books and manuscripts from the Library’s historic collection. The event, which drew guests and performers from as far away as New York and Paris, was the culmination of months of collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries, the Peabody BFA Dance Program, the Johns Hopkins Film & Media Studies MA program, and an Advisory Board made up of Icons and Legends in Baltimore’s ballroom scene.
Advisory Board member Londyn Mugler welcomed the crowd. “This place,” she said, “at one time, was probably segregated. It was not open to people that look much like ourselves, who were black for one, and queer for another.” She pointed to the latticed skylight. “You look above us and you see this glass ceiling,” she said. “We are breaking glass ceilings tonight.” Many ballroom artists felt they were making a political statement by staging a meangful ritual—one created to insist on the value of queer people of color—in a historically white-dominated space.
Below are the original performance category descriptions, written by the Peabody Advisory Board, and video footage shot by Johns Hopkins Film & Media Studies MA students.