As a lover of house music, it’s imperative that you study the history of the music you’ve come to love. Forme, my relationship with house has always been one driven by the past. When I first fell in love with the sounds of house, I made sure to study the history, the evolution, and develop a fondess for the classics.
In the midst of my constant research and development of comprehending why house music is so amazing, I’ve come to watch three documentaries that have provided thought-provoking insight into the evolution of house and club culture.
The three documentaries that I highly recommend you watch (and read about on my blog) are: Pump Up the Volume (history of house music), Paris is Burning (a film about vogue culture), and my latest discovery, a riveting 2003 British documentary, MAESTRO.
MAESTRO is a film I stumbled upon about a few days ago in the midst of a search about the house music scene in San Francisco. I’m planning on checking out the scene, and if things can fall into place, maybe leave Los Angeles and move up to SF. More on that later. But yes, as I was saying, I discovered this insatiable documentary and watched the entire film on YouTube.
Now I know that I mentioned I was doing a search about the scene in San Francisco, but the film is actually about the evolution of the “underground” house music scene and club culture in New York City during the late 70s and 80s. My fellow house junkies and dance music lovers know what I’m talking about; Larry Levan‘s presence at the Paradise Garage and David Mancuso‘s The Loft.
I’m not going to spoil every moment of the film, so you should watch the entire film (uploaded by We Mean Disco) for yourself. It’s a powerful documentary that shows the influence of the legend himself, Larry Levan. And it also shows the influence of David Mancuso, another great legend who pioneered “invitation-only” parties in NYC, which helped cultivate the club scene. Both of the men are legends, along with Frankie Knuckles.
The film has rare footage of Levan spinning, Mancuso, and it features great commentary that truly reminds me why I love house music and the club culture. House is a universal language that has a way of uniting everyone, especially those who are in the struggle and just need a release. Without Paradise Garage and The Loft, house wouldn’t have held the impact it does today within the “underground” club culture.
As I always like to quote, Eddie Amador’s famous lyrics, ”not everyone understands house music, it’s a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing…” And my theory on that statement is simply this, in order to truly understand house music, you have to allow yourself to gain a fundamental appreciation of disco, classic house, and fall in love with the evolution of the genre I’ve come to declare a lifestyle.
House music: it’s a way of life, an atmospheric experience of beats and a community of unity.
NYC based band, Hercules and Love Affair, is known for their disco house music, which propels any house dancer to strike a pose. Not only do I love this song because of it’s classic house beat, but the vogueing in the video reminds me of how much I love house dancing and vogue. I’m not the best at vogueing, but I appreciate the history of the style and it’s relationship with my beloved house music.
Some of you may be reading this and be like what the heck is vogue? Isn’t that a Madonna song or some type of dancing that gay guys do? It is true that a lot of widely acclaimed vogue dancers are gay, but that doesn’t mean everyone who vogues is gay or a male. Vogue, which was originally inspired by Vogue magazine, is the art form of moving your body to the music through model poses. These poses become incorporated with angular, linear, and rigid arm, leg, and body movements.
Vogueing is a lot more rigid then house dancing, but it is truly a intricate dance form. There are many different styles of vogue, new style and classic style are two forms that differ completely. Vogue is a dance style that is practiced widely amongst different ballrooms. For those of you who aren’t in tune with LGBT terminology, ball culture consist of different “houses” or groups of LGBT’s that are overseen by a “house mother” or “house father”. It’s part of the LGBT subculture and it is a beautiful event to watch! Dancer’s and drag queens “walk” and compete for trophies. The competitions sometimes consist of a “walk”, in which the contestant will vogue or dance, sometimes they are even judge off the success or failure of their drag.
There are many different houses in the vogue community, House of Corey, the House of LaBeija, the House of Ninja, the House of Pendavis, the House of Garavani and House of Xtravaganza. Those are a few of the major houses on the East Coast, but some other well known houses include the House of Mizrahi, House of Infiniti, and the House of Aviance.
For many years, my favorite house has been the House of Ninja. Willi Ninja, who passed in 2006, was known as the Grandfather of Vogue. In the 80s he helped moved the vogue dance scene from New York clubs to the concert stage, resulting in a new radical performance art. He taught vogueing throughout Europe and Japan, even modeled in runway shows for Jean Paul Gaultier, and he danced in music videos. Willi Ninja was influenced by martial arts at a young age, which is why he called himself Willi Ninja, which also became the name of one of the most famous vogue houses, House of Ninja.
Since I listen to a lot of house music, I’ve been exposed to different styles of dance. Vogue has become an art form that I enjoy watching. I’m still learning it, but it is fascinating to watch and cheer on. I plan on going to my first House Dance International hopefully next summer, eventually trekking across the globe to attend the Juste Deboute. I still have a lot more house dancing to learn, so for now I’ll continue to eat some popcorn and spend hours on youtube watching vogue battles.
If you want to learn more, check out the 90s documentary Paris is Burning, which chronicles Willi ninja and the ball culture scene in NYC. The clip below is from the documentary, I have to watch the full film!
I loooooooooove Javier Ninja! He is a vogue beast, barely anybody can touch him when it comes to competition. As soon as he hits the stage, it’s a wrap!