In the face of the current political climate, with right wing protests appearing on the streets of the UK with alarmingly increasing frequency, groups that reject oppression are important. Deep In Vogue delves into North England’s voguing scene, a predominantly queer space which is gradually becoming more commercial as it gains popularity.
In the film, “mothers” – figures who act as dance leaders and parental figures for members the house who may not have support from their biological families – narrate the history of drag and voguing in the UK. Those familiar with the US documentary Paris Is Burning may find this history lesson covers well- trodden ground, but directors Amy Watson and Dennis Keighron-Foster successfully identify what makes the Northern scene unique. Liverpudlian dancers emerging in the 1980s and 1990s would practice in a graveyard at night, simply because they had no other spaces available to them. The film charts the growth in popularity, leading individuals from cemeteries to warehouses with glitzy runways, by following houses as they prepare to compete at a ball in Manchester.
The feature follows two main groups – House of Decay and House of Ghetto. The former comprises young up-and-coming LGBTQ+ dancers, whilst the latter is a platform for black female dancers. Through group interviews, the individuals express their appreciation for the open, comforting space of the voguing scene, free from external stereotyping and judgement. Both houses’ dance styles are shown in a live performance setting, as well as more stylised, studio constructed scenes –solo in front of the camera.
Whilst the sense of community is vital, nourishing and necessary, it’s apparent that audiences have become more mainstream, perhaps due to the increased media attention to LGBTQ+ performers graduating from shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race; cis-hetero white women are a large demographic in attendance at the Manchester ball. The film does well to address the issue of appropriation by making sure that the history of voguing is included; as one dancer says, “drag is built on appropriating pop culture, but it’s important to remember where it started – in black and latino gay communities – so its roots aren’t lost.”
Deep In Vogue screens at Sheffield Doc/Fest until 11 June. Find out more here.
1. All stills from Deep in Vogue.