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1st March 2022

Review: Vogue Ball – Night at the Poseum

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews Vogue Ball: Night at the Poseum at Manchester Academy – the first time the venue has hosted the event in two years
Review: Vogue Ball – Night at the Poseum
Photo: Shirlaine Forrest.

After two long years, the annual Vogue Ball is back at Manchester Academy, bigger and better than ever before. Whilst there was a smaller Vogue Ball last summer (at HOME’s temporary outdoor event space, Homeground), it was wonderful to see the event return to Manchester Academy during LGBT+ History Month.

House of Suarez and Contact’s Vogue Ball is part of Contact Theatre’s annual Queer Contact. Whilst the event used to take place in the much smaller Academy 2, high demand moved the event to the main Academy. I believe this is the event’s third year there. Whilst the event usually sells out, this one didn’t – a consequence of Covid.

Each year, Vogue Ball has a theme. The theme in 2020 was Atlantis; this time, it was Night at the Poseum (Pose/museum). The event is broken down further into five categories: fantasy, solo, lip sync, sex-siren, and choreography. The event opened with an introduction by House of Suarez’ “Mother”, Darren Suarez, and an opening piece from said house. Each house embodies a different section of a museum; House of Suarez went for Ancient Egypt (obviously).

The opening piece saw four hot Pharaohs (one with a dad bod) take to the stage and transport us back in time. It was clear, right from the beginning, that this event was going to champion diversity: three ripped Black dancers, one White dancer with a bit of a chub, all equally talented.

The event’s emcee/compère, Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE (who we interviewed ahead of the last ball), then took to the stage. His introduction was as fabulous as ever. Beadle-Blair is, inarguably, one of the best things about Vogue Ball. He’s sassy but not too shady; he establishes a safe space where all feel, not just welcomed, but loved.

I particularly love how Rikki repeatedly reminds the (majority White) audience that voguing was created by poor, queer, Black Americans. Whilst Madonna popularised the dance, and White gays have adopted it, we must never forget its origin. The hit TV show Pose delves into the early days of voguing, with its queer Black and Latin cast, and whilst that show might have ended, the party goes on – but part of that party must be acknowledging its forefathers (and mothers).

The first category was fantasy. It was a mystic, mythical start to the event. House of Brasil (also known as Viva Brazil Samba Show) always understands the assignment, with their fierce, festival-esque costumes.

House of Curio (a deaf, disabled and neuro-divergent House) offered a gorgeous, inspiring performance. Natalie, a wheelchair user, rolled on stage with great gravitas and grace.

The next category was solo. My favourite performances came from Joyce of House of La Porta and Jaden (aka Jay) from House of Suarez. They both oozed so much sass and sex appeal. Joyce was giving Doja Cat, with her red hair and feisty dancing; it was possibly my favourite performance of the night.

The judges called a dance off. It was fierce. The two hotties battled it out, each of them slaying so hard that it felt like murder on the dance floor. It’s hard to believe that their dancing was freestyle. Heck, it felt like they had choreographed their dancing with each other. In the end, Joyce prevailed, but it sure was a tough one.

Another one of my favourite performances came from House of Korrupt’s Mother, Luke Arrowsmith, during the Lip Sync category. Luke somehow outdoes himself every year. Last time, he dressed up as Ariel from The Little Mermaid, whilst one of his female dancers dressed up as Eric, and they made a big splash onstage.

This year’s dance, however, made that one look child-friendly. Luke lip synced to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’. Now, which one of those iconic outfits did her wear? The crime scene tape one, of course!

With his bare butt on display, Luke owned the stage. Towards the end of the performance, he threw his telephone upstage, but he didn’t need it: half the audience were capturing it with our mobile phones. It was iconic.

The lip sync category also went to a dance off, and sure enough, Luke won.

The next category was Rikki’s personal favourite: Sex-siren. My favourite has to be the one given by House of Brasil’s Simone. Simone gets bigger, better and badder every year (her derriere sure gets bigger). Her glittery headdress was almost as wide as the stage itself. The Latin sensation shaked so hard, I felt a tremble on the ground beneath me. I wonder if she has something to do with the crazy storm we’re currently experiencing…

I also loved the performance given by House of Blaque’s Xavier. Now, Xavier is gorgeous; he’s a sex siren without even moving, and even clothed. But this performance, which saw him strutting his stuff in nothing but undies and accessories, oozed sex appeal. His casual bending over when he reached the end of the catwalk was poised and saucy; the audience loved it. I will say, however, that this performance did not let Xavier show off his sheer talent; I’ve seen videos of him voguing, and he really is incredible.

The hosting house, House of Suarez, also offered a sexy sex-siren performance, with the return of the four guys who opened the show. The guys next to me were freaking out over the performance’s main dancer, who showed off his masculinity and muscularity with confidence and class.

The winner of this category, however, was idreamintheday from House of Curio. Her tight bodysuit showed off her crazy curves, and the audience loved it when she placed water pistols on her breasts and sprayed them.

The final, and most important, category, was won by the hosting house – it often is. Whilst I was not as entertained by House of Suarez’ small-scale performance, one cannot deny the level of technique in their performances: they are the creme-de-la-creme of the British vogue scene.

My two favourite performances of this category came from House of Cards and House of La Porta. House of Cards’ performance saw four girls dressed as a nun and a guy, Alex Davison, dressed as a Priest. One of the girls had competed in the previous category in the same nun outfit. “Sexy nun” is a little basic, I know, but there was nothing basic about this performance. The dancing was incredible. It was fun, youthful, and super sassy. Alex looked particularly stunning with his black eyeshadow.

House of La Porta’s performance did not feature their Mother, Joss; it was only the girls. There was so much going on; it was like overdosing on female fabulosity. Lucy McGrellis made her awesome ‘The Little Mermaid’ performance at the 2020 show look amateur in comparison. Most of the audience seemed to be firmly behind La Porta, though it did seem like they had quite a few friends in the audience. One of the judges shut down the La Porta chants by affirming that the event is not a democracy, to both laughs and boos from the audience.

Whilst La Porta shockingly lost the category, they did win Best Overall – which was won by House of Suarez in 2020. That same judge relented: it is in fact a democracy, and the girls, gays and theys in the audience can have it their way. It was a well-deserved win, and it was lovely seeing how happy Joss and his girls were when they came back onstage to collect their award. I loved it when the girls made way for Joss, and then, one by one, they stepped forward to do their own little dance. There was a lot of love on that stage.

The event was followed by an after-party at the recently reopened Contact Theatre. It was my first time in the building since my first year of university, when I caught Peaches Christ’s ‘Hocum Pokem’ (yes, Contact is pretty gay). It closed soon after, before reopening in my fifth and final year! It was lovely to return – and the following night, I was back again, this time actually catching a show.

Contact’s Queer Contact programme has sadly coming to an end, but they’ve already announced some incredible events taking place throughout the year, including the return of Nathaniel Hall, who we interviewed last year. In the meantime, check out our review of The Bitten Peach!

For more Vogue Ball content, read our review of the Atlantis ball and our interview with Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE.

As the gayest of gay icons, The Grand High Witch, said after her annual ball of a meeting: Until next year! (Sadly, she didn’t get another year, but whatever, we will).

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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