Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Associated Press: Tandi Iman Dupree makes the "greatest" entrance of all time

This year, the fabulous Tandi Iman Dupree attracted the attention of an entertainment reporter, Jake Coyle, who works for the Associated Press.

In a round-up of interesting Web sites that gained notoriety in 2007, Mr. Coyle wrote about the dangerous stunt that was Miss Dupree's stage entrance at the 2001 Miss Black America drag pageant. In his article, Mr. Coyle described Miss Dupree's performance as among the most interesting items on the Internet, which "deserve notice."

Watch Miss Dupree's acrobatic entrance and performance at the Miss Black America pageant. Set to the tune of Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out for a Hero, Miss Dupree delivers an entrance -- and performance -- of a lifetime.

Look for the dips (dance move) by Miss Dupree (the first at 3:02) and by her dancing partner (at 4:33), which are highly characteristic of the dips in "Ball" dancing. Also notice Miss Dupree's use of the runway.

A little bit about Tandi Iman Dupree

UPDATE: Please read this entry on Lady Bunny's blog, where Lady Bunny shares some sad news about Miss Dupree.

Since I posted this message about Tandi Iman Dupree, I've received a few comments asking about biographical information about Miss Dupree. I was able to reach out and get some information about Miss Dupree's life. A friendly member of the Carrie Fairfield community provided me with the following information, which I'm summarizing here:

I haven't been able to confirm any between Miss Dupree and the Ballroom scene. As far as my source knows, Miss Dupree was always a pageant girl. She actually started her dance career in high school, being the co-captain of her high school majorette squad until graduation. She started competing at N-Cognito night club in Memphis, TN, where she created original talents and routines with other dancers in the area. Word of her talent soon got out.

Miss Dupree was dedicated to becoming Miss Black America. She traveled from drag mecca to drag mecca: such as Texas, Florida, DC, Atlanta to promote her self and her dream of becoming Miss Black America. Unfortunately, she passed away before she could realize her dream.

According to my source, Miss Dupree's father is Shun Monro Dupree, and she was the grandchild of Niesha Dupree (a legend in Atlanta) with connections to Tamisha Iman (former Miss Gay USofA), Tanisha Cassidine (former Miss Black America, Miss Black USofA) and has numerous children sisters and brothers.

SIDEBAR: As I try to collect more information about Miss Dupree's life, I promise to keep you updated.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The 'How Do I Look Ball' in Chicago

I found some videos on YouTube, showing the How Do I Look Ball that took place in Chicago with the star Mo'Nique in attendance. In this pair of videos, you can catch a glimpse of the filmmaker Wolfgang Busch shooting his own video footage.

Renaldo Blahnik vs. Raven Mizrahi (dancing) at the How Do I Look Ball.

Legendary Mother Milan MB doin' her "thang" (dancing) at the How Do I Look Ball.

I promise to collect and add more information about the How Do I Look Ball on this post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dance and Fashion Show at the Red Ball on World AIDS Day

On World AIDS Day 2007, dancers from the "Ball" community were invited to perform at the Red Ball fundraiser and awards event of the Fifth Annual New York AIDS Film Festival. Before the guests were seated for dinner, Wolfgang Busch (director of the documentary How Do I Look) posed for a picture with two dancers from the House of Ninja.

Wolfgang Busch and dancers from the House of Ninja at the Red Ball awards ceremony of the 5th Annual New York AIDS Film Festival on World AIDS Day 2007.

As some of the personalities arrived, photographers were given an opportunity to snap pics. Here Busch stood next to celebrity designer Richie Rich, of the fashion design house Heatherette.

Wolfgang Busch and fashion designer Richie Rich at the Red Ball awards ceremony of the 5th Annual New York AIDS Film Festival on World AIDS Day 2007.

At another opportunity, the celebrity fashion designer Marc Bouwer joined Busch for a photo-op.

Wolfgang Busch and fashion designer Marc Bouwer at the Red Ball awards ceremony of the 5th Annual New York AIDS Film Festival on World AIDS Day 2007.


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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pop culture references to the "Ball" community

On a forum that was pointed out to me, I saw an interesting post by Mizz Nicky LaLa, in which Mizz Nicky wrote that there are references to the "Ball" community (or "Ball" culture) in some of the songs performed by RuPaul.
Another intresting fact is the inspiration for RuPaul's "Supermodel of the World" album was a statement that Legendary Mother Octavia Laurent (Manolo-Blahnik) made in which she wanted to be the "supermodel of the world."

Mizz Nicky claims to have another source, which is based on the "Ball" community, for another one of RuPaul's songs.

RuPaul also cut a track called "Superbitch" for the South Park movie soundtrack a while back, in which she "summoned" the spirit of Venus Xtravaganza (who was featured in Paris is Burning) by reciting her midnight pier shadyness: "Touch this soft skin honey, Touch all of this skin dahhhhhling."

Classic... I love that if you scratch beneath the surface just a little bit, you find all these great historic moments of ballroom roots.

I will promise to continue my search for more references to the "Ball" community in our pop culture.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dance on the Runway on Technorati

Over on Technorati, you can now read the Dance on the Runway blog. Inspired by the film How Do I Look, this blog will focus on the cultural trends created by the "Ball" community in dance, fashion, music, and runway.

You can learn more about me by reading my Technorati Profile.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Willi Ninja: Grandfather of Vogue

Although it wasn't a line that was used in my favorite movie, "Desk Set," I immediately thought to myself, "When in doubt, check The New York Times." I looked up the obituary published by the NYTimes following the passing of Willi Ninja. Willi was a star in the "Ball" community. In fact, The New York Times referred to Willi as the "Grandfather of Vogue" . Here is some more information from that same obituary:

Vogueing had been around for years, but Willi Ninja brought it to a level of visibility and perfection in performance that no one had ever reached before, said Sally Sommer, a professor of dance at Florida State University (See NYTimes obituary tribute for Willi Ninja).

From what I know about Willi from the documentary How Do I Look, I know that he was an inspiration to a lot of people. And it was no doubt through connecting with so many people (including celebrities and personalities) that Willi helped popularize "Vogue" as a dance form. I promise to keep looking for more references to how "Vogue" was popularized.

Some quick Wikipedia information about "Vogue" dancing

I did a quicky search on Wikipedia (27-Nov-2007), and I saw that there was a music video for the song "Deep In Vogue" by Malcolm McLaren, and on a page dedicated to dancing fads, here is what I read:

Vogue (dance), a popular style in New York gay discos in the late '80s, evolved from a much earlier style known as "performance". In this flowing freestyle mode, dancers punctuate their movements with an improvised series of static poses which, as the name implies, are meant to evoke the poses seen in classic fashion photos in publications like Vogue magazine. This style was first popularised/exploited internationally by entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren, whose single and music video for the song "Deep In Vogue" was the first to namecheck the style in the mass market. Vogue enjoyed its widest recognition in 1990 with the hugely successful single and music video "Vogue" by Madonna (See Novelty and fad dances).

The interesting thing for me was that when I then looked up the singer, Malcolm McLaren, I found no reference to his vogue dance hit on his personal Wikipedia page:

In 1989, he returned with the album Waltz Darling, a funk/disco/vogueing inspired album. Waltz Darling incorporated elements of his former albums, ie spoken verses, string arrangements and eclectic mix of genres but featured such prominent musicians like Bootsy Collins or Jeff Beck with a glitzy, LA-style production aimed at the US market. The singles, "Waltz Darling," "Something's Jumpin' in Your Shirt" became top-20 radio hits in Europe. While for once McLaren's instincts failed him (there was no sudden interest in waltz music) it still helped to spread the news about the previously underground practice of vogueing (See the Wikipedia page on Malcolm McLaren).

How odd. I guess Lady Bunny is right when she wrote that there is some confusion about who popularized "Vogue" as a dance form. I promise to keep doing some more research.

Madonna's music video for 'Vogue'

"Beauty's where you find it"

Of course, there is this video, which was responsible for bringing the "Vogue" style of dance from the runways of "Ball" competitions and onto the dance floors around the world:

According to Wikipedia (as of 27-Nov-2007), with the release of the music video for "Vogue:"

Madonna brought the hitherto underground "vogueing" culture into the mainstream with the release of her song (See Vogue_(song).

Meanwhile, Lady Bunny, a New York City night life personality, claims that it is not entirely clear who should be credited with bringing "Vogue" the dance form to the masses:

There are disputes over who first brought vogueing to the mainstream, but Willi definitely played a large part in it (See Lady Bunny's blog post about the Willi Ninja Benefit).

1989: A critical year for 'Voguing'

Update (20-Jan-2008): I have assembled an early history of voguing, as reported across newspaper and magazine articles in 1989.

History of 'Vogue' dance style in American pop music videos

Using the commentary by Willi Ninja in the documentary How Do I Look, I have assembled the history of how voguing progressed through mainstream American pop music on the Squidoo page for the 'How Do I Look' documentary.

Where are Madonna's vogue dancers?

Who were Madonna's vogue dancers? One of the men who dances in the music video for "Vogue" is Jose Xtravaganza, who also appears in the documentary, How Do I Look.

History of 'Vogue' according to How Do I Look documentary

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A perfect example of what it means to, "Dance On The Runway"

The "Dip" by Nino Mizrahi

In this YouTube video, Nino "Boots" Mizrahi dances in a highly stylized fashion that is typical of dancing among "Ball" dancers. In Voguing, there is a spectacularly dramatic move called the "dip," which, from what I know about "voguing," is a standard, yet dramatic, dance move. The challenge that comes from it being a move that many people can do is that you got to make your performance unique. In this video, Nino Mizrahi performs a "dip" that is fearless.

How "Voguing" still inspires some dancers today

I was on YouTube this morning, and I found this great video of a guy who calls this a "virgin Vogue." In spite of his humility, it is a very good dance sequence. The song to which he is dancing has got a marked rhythmic beat, and it is augmented by the chant (or "commentary") by the commentator. It includes some profanity, but that is keeping with the tradition of some of the commentary that is used at Balls.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The 12th Annual Dorian Corey Awards Ball

Earlier this year, Philadelphia Weekly wrote an article which covered the 12th Annual Dorian Corey Awards Ball. The article also provides some historical references to the roots of earlier Ball scenes, including information about the Ball scene in Philadelphia.

The article in Philadelphia Weekly mentions these "houses" from the Ball community: the House of Prodigy, the House of Blahnik, the House of Ultra Omni, the House of Ungaro, the House of St. Clair, and the House of Ebony. Other houses and many of the performing artists and dancers are also mention. This article also touches upon many of the health, social, and economic issues, which are facing the Ball community. Overall, it's a very informative article. I invite you to please read the article about the 12th Annual Dorian Corey Awards Ball.

There is also some interesting video footage about the Dorian Corey Awards Ball, which Philadephia Weekly posted on its website.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Greatest Ball on Earth!

Michael, Tim, and Terrence PRINCESS present:

The Greatest Ball on Earth!

To be held on August 2, 2008, in New York City, The Greatest Ball on Earth! "is an actual grand ball produced jointly by Michael, Tim and Terrence Princess. We have met several times this past year and agree an event produced by the three of us is the perfect way to pay cross-generational homage to our ballroom heritage. It is also an appropriate tribute to our pioneers, icons, legends, stars and new statements. This is a ball for ALL GENERATIONS. So put on your best FACE and bring it to THE GREATEST BALL ON EARTH!"

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Listen to a podcast interview with Kevin Ultra Omni, one of the artists featured in "How Do I Look"

Podcast of Pink Mafia Radio Episode No. 72, May 22, 2007, dedicated to the documentary, How Do I Look.

Coverage of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival begins with our guest Kevin Ultra Omni founding father of the House of Ultra Omni and Co-Director of How Do I Look. His film is the answer to the questions left by the classic Ball Scene documentary Paris Is Burning. Kevin with Wolfgang Bush and Luna Khan directed this new film with much more input from the people active in the NYC Ball community. To find out more about the film please go to

Listen to the Pink Mafia Radio Interview with Kevin Ultra Omni.

Click on this link to listen to the podcast interview with Kevin Ultra Omni

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blogs about Dancing are Very Rare

In an interesting blog post, someone asked a very good question: “Where is all the blogging about dance?

I wonder how much more rare will a blog be about the union of dance and fashion?

The above link was helpful on a couple of points: (a) it points out the shortage, and (b) the author of the blog post named a few favorite blogs about dancing. I'm adding those links to my blogroll.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The role of a "Runway" in a "Ball"

Filmmaker Wolfgang Busch screened his documentary, How Do I Look, at the Love is the Message Ball in Los Angeles in 2006. Here is an excerpt from a film review written by Jasmyne Cannick, an important cultural leader in the Los Angeles community:

* "WHAT IS A BALL? Several times a month, predominantly black/latino gay social groups (called houses) get together at events where they compete in a variety of categories. The house that is hosting presents the theme and categories, circulating information, well in advance, so that people can prepare. At the event, houses submit a variety of contestants to vie for recognition or defend titles earned previously. A hall is set with chairs and tables on either side, leaving a 'runway' that leads up to the judges' table in front. The deejay is in place with all the right records, old and new, to create various moods needed throughout the show. The emcee has the wit and the control to keep the program flowing, as well as keeping the audience entertained. It all begins with a Grand March (or 'Legends, Statements and Stars'), to introduce the members of the hosting house, as well as the judges and other noteworthy attendees. Sometimes a new house or individual will make a debut, or even change membership for shock value. As the program progresses, winners are awarded trophies, and the evening finishes with a Grand Prize category, usually offering cash and a trophy. This is what it means to have a 'Ball,' a tradition that has continued to flourish and mutate since the early 1900s." -- Jasmyne Cannick -- Excerpt from Ms. Cannick’s description of ball culture and her preview/review of "How Do I Look." Ms. Cannick also discusses, "WHAT IS A HOUSE?" "THE RICH HISTORY OF BALLS," "THE CATEGORIES," and "WHAT IS VOGUE?" Her web page dedicated to "How Do I Look" also provides educational links.