Gay Essential Review: Deep in Vogue at BFI Flare

A cultural documentary by Dennis Keighton-Foster and Amy Watson, Deep in Vogue presents a colourful perspective on the vogueing subculture of northern UK, Manchester in particular. Comprised of interviews, archive footage, and behind the scenes captures, this hour-long documentary provides a firsthand account of the glamour and the confidence that a thrilling vogue ball provides for a vibrant, yet marginalized LGBTQ community.

Deep in Vogue

Beginning in Harlem in the 1930’s, the practice of vogueing is deeply intertwined racism and prejudice. As all white drag shows in America began to take off, black and Hispanic gay and trans voguers found themselves shut out from the action. As a result, they found their own places to perform. The elegant balls and performances delivered by these minority drag performers gained notoriety in New York, one of the few pockets in the US where LGBTQ have always had a safe home. By accepting and encouraging performers from all walks of life, the underground drag shows set the standard for vogueing as we know it today.

Across the pond, vogueing is on the upswing in Manchester. Similar to the US, the ballrooms provide a place for the LGBTQ performers to come together, celebrate, and most importantly, build a community. Like a seasoned method actor, each performer reaches into their own story and leaves it all on the dance floor, with plenty of glitter and perfectly choreographed dance moves.

Much of the film is relayed through the experiences of a collection of house mothers, who are essentially the founders of an individual vogue troupe. This is an important role in vogue culture. The ballrooms may provide the opportunity for celebration, but the houses provide the sense of belonging and kinship that may be lacking elsewhere in life. Through personal stories and musings, the audience is immersed in this subculture and welcomed with open arms.

The culmination of Deep in Vogue is a grand ball, where all of the Manchester houses are slated to perform. With a diverse panel of judges seated by the runway, each performer brings the party onstage, in a flurry of queer and vibrant emotion. Interestingly, the stories and the backgrounds of each performer are left at the door. While there is a strong spirit of competition within this ballroom, it is vastly more important for each member to recognize this as a space where all are welcome to be whoever they are.

3 stars

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Dave Croyle

Dave Croyle

Dave Croyle is an advertising and marketing professional with a knack for building ideas and getting things done. Throughout his career he has written and produced creative work for a variety of brands, big and small. As a history buff and art geek, Dave is passionate about exploring cultures and seeing the world. Dave resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and two dogs.