In her most recent world tour, Madonna reprised her seminal 1990 hit “Vogue,” but this time the performance was not reminiscent of old Hollywood like in the song's original music video, nor was it an ode to Marie Antoinette as in the singer's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. “Vogue” in 2013 had men in stilettos strutting down the runway stage so fiercely that they could've decapitated a small rodent.
“Vogueing is all about glamour and selling oneself, even if you don't have expensive clothes or hair or makeup. It is about self-confidence and ambition,” said Skip Pryzwara, creative consultant for the upcoming event “Fall Into Vogue,” which will take place at Beatbox on Sunday.
Madonna's song and accompanying dance routine was heavily inspired by New York's underground “house balls” that brought the queer, black and transgender communities together for a night of cheeky pageantry and gender play. In 1990, the movement was captured for posterity in the documentary “Paris Is Burning” at the same time Madonna was fanning it all over MTV.
More than two decades later, vogue is back in, well, vogue, with expressions such as “reading” (spewing clever insults) and “realness” (a perfect rendition) popping up in “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “RuPaul's Drag Race” and “Project Runway.” In diverse meccas like San Francisco, vogue has never left the spotlight.
“Fall Into Vogue,” produced by Jeremy Boatman and Megan Murray, will include a runway competition and “Vogue” performance with judges Peaches Christ, Mercedez Munro, Miss Rahni and Honey Mahogany assessing the contestants based on their look, attitude, walk and “what they serve” (a version of je nai se quoi). The event welcomes all colors, shapes and sizes of the racial and gender spectrum.
“I've seen a lot of white Russian kids death-dropping their asses off, and some very butch Latino boys who ruled the stage,” Murray said. “That's why it was appealing to bring San Francisco culture to this show.”
“Fall Into Vogue's” party flier features none other than Madge herself, whose early appropriation has made her a beloved icon. However, the LGBT and black communities have not seemed to have received similar present-day appropriations by other heterosexual white artists such as Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears quite as favorably.
“Everything is a remix, and homage is a great tribute,” Murray said. “The beautiful side effect [of mainstream artists borrowing elements from the underground] is a shared love of art. The crappy side effect is when originating artists don't get the credit.”
In deciding whether this type of high-profile appropriation is positive or negative, sometimes it's best to follow a simple test.
“We all wanted to be Madonna, or one of her dancers,” Pryzwara said. “I don't know anyone who wants to be one of Miley's stuffed bears.”
San Franciscans hoping to learn to vogue can join choreographer Joquese Whitfield of Vogue & Tone on Monday evenings at Dance Mission (3316 24th St.) or Thursday evenings at ODC Dance Commons (351 Shotwell St.).
“Fall Into Vogue” tickets are available online at voguesf.brownpapertickets.com.