What is Ballroom?
In the vibrant tapestry of LGBTQIA+ culture, the ballroom community shines as a brilliant thread that weaves together self-expression, empowerment, and activism. Originating in the 1980s in New York City, the ballroom scene has evolved into a global phenomenon, offering a safe haven for queer individuals while playing a pivotal role in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Ballroom encompasses a range of activities, most notably “balls” or “voguing balls,” where participants compete in various categories, such as dance, fashion, and runway walks, often emulating high fashion and modeling. These performances have long been a social and political commentary platform, bringing attention to issues like racism, homophobia, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Ballroom balls and competitions often incorporate HIV/AIDS awareness themes. Members and performers use their artistic talents to educate and promote safe sex practices and HIV testing, contributing to the broader awareness efforts in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Ballroom houses, like the iconic House of Xtravaganza or the House of Ninja, create safe and inclusive spaces where LGBTQIA+ individuals, often marginalized and ostracized by society, can express their true selves without fear of discrimination or prejudice. Many members of the ballroom community find their chosen family within their respective houses, offering a support system that can be lifesaving for those facing rejection from their biological families due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ballroom and HIV/AIDS
The ballroom community was deeply impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, losing countless members and leaders to the disease. In response, the community mobilized to raise awareness, advocate for testing and prevention, and provide support to those affected.
Over the years, the ballroom community has extended its reach to provide access to healthcare and HIV testing, especially for those who face barriers to such services. This outreach contributes to the overall reduction of HIV transmission rates.
The Dallas Impact
Thanks to the pioneering work of Resource Center’s program, United Black Ellument (UBE), and community leader JRock Ebony, Dallas has a rich history with ballroom culture. For over a decade, they’ve been a safe and creative outlet for Black, same-gender loving men and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, some famous ballroom performers, Xa’Pariis Ebony, Cali Balmain, Silkie O’Hara Monroe, and many more, are native to Dallas.
UBE’s reputation is respected across the country, and members recently gave a presentation at the US Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA) in Washington D.C. titled “The Art of Connection: Ballroom and Vogueing as Catalysts for Empowerment”. The content centered around discovering how these dance forms can connect individuals to essential community resources, including HIV testing and care, PrEP, and sexual health education. With passion and expertise, the UBE team shared its impactful work of Vogue Academy and its role within the Gulf Coast Kiki ballroom scene.
The ballroom community stands as a testament to the resilience, creativity, and activism of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Beyond its dazzling performances and vibrant culture, it plays a vital role in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS, which disproportionately affects the Black community. As we celebrate the progress made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the increasing visibility of LGBTQIA+ communities, we must recognize and honor the essential contributions of the ballroom community in shaping both movements.
Vogue Academy takes place at our community center every Friday from 7-10 p.m. If you’d like to learn more about how to join the local ballroom scene or want to help with HIV/AIDS awareness within the local BIPOC community, please reach out connect with us on social media.