Voguing the house scene at the House Ballroom
Courtesy of Chantal Reignault and Soul Jazz Books

Soul Jazz Records compilation Voguing and the New York City Ballroom Scene 1989 – 1992

April 26 2012
12:00 AM

By the end of the 1980s, the thriving underground gay culture of Manhattan had been hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, raging with a particular relentlessness in the African-American and Latino communities. Around the same time, voguing, a gay niche culture that offered these communities a refuge and stage in the ballrooms of midtown and Harlem, had hit its zenith. The photobook “Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92” is a long-overdue tribute to the glory days of queer balls and voguing’s highly coded aesthetic. Offering a fascinating glimpse into the on and offstage world of the scene’s protagonists, photographer Chantal Regnault’s compelling images are rare documents of an interlocking of the cultural trope of African-American signifyin’ practice applied to performance and performativity. Ranging from stylized glamour portraits to shots transmitting the vibrant atmosphere of the balls, these photographs capture every detail, from the looks to the pitch-perfect poses of the bygone era. Acknowledging music’s role as a vital part of the scene’s history, Soul Jazz Records is releasing an accompanying compilation of house music that aptly conveys the ballroom atmosphere steeped with a  hunger for life and recognition. Both the book and the compilation testify to a moment in the complex history of the scene that taught pop culture a step or two. (Kathleen Reinhardt)