EXCERPTS FROM DR. JOSEPH PLASTER’S ORAL HISTORY WITH CLANTON:
My mother said I came out the womb dancin’. So, I can remember that I always danced…One thing that I like about voguing is you could be whatever you want to be – you could be yourself. With voguing, I just felt like you could be free.
When I teach classes, I try to explain it to the students so they understand a little history behind the movements. I would let you know that voguing is all five elements. I would break down the elements, with hand performance, with catwalks, with duckwalks, with spins, with dips, floor performance….I also would explain [that] it comes from New York City. It started off with poses in the magazine. You know how when a model is doing a photo shoot, and the photographer says ‘pose?’ It started with poses, and then the poses created movement and create flow, and then from there, it created the form.
When you learn other dances, it’s more of routines. Voguing is elements, but when [you put] elements together, it’s more of a feelin’. So, when you’re voguing, you have to connect with some type of emotion, and that creates your story—whether it is a happy place, whether it’s pain, whether it’s insecurity, whether it’s aggression. Whatever it is, you have to just find that emotion, that feeling, and then put that in your vogue, and that will tell your story.”
When I first started voguing, we wasn’t inspired by butch queens that vogue. We was more inspired by fem queens and transgender women. We watched them vogue…If you wanted to vogue, you had to find some type of inspiration, and most of the inspiration came from the transgender girls. [Vogue’s history is important] because anytime you have a history, you have something to follow. You have something to look up to, and then you also have something to call your own. At that point when it started, it was a place where we call it our own because other places we couldn’t. So you take that with pride.
When [ballroom] started, it was a place where we call it our own because other places we couldn’t call our own. It started off with mainly black and Latino, but now it’s everybody, everybody. A lot of us that was a part of it when it was underground –it is good for us to let our voices be heard when it’s going mainstream because if you want to use this culture, make sure that you hire people and book people that know what this culture is about.
I’m super excited about the Peabody project because it shows how far we have came in ballroom. At one point in time, we probably wasn’t even able to come up in here, and then we might have came up here to see a book. Now, we comin’ in here into havin’ an event. So, it shows the growth. It’s something good for the ballroom community, and I just think it’s something good for Baltimore, in general.
Peabody BFA Dance students perform at the April 13 ball. Photo by Gerard Gaskin.