If the names Willi Ninja, Dorian Corey, Pepper LaBeija, and Venus Xtravaganza sound the slightest bit familiar, then you've likely seen the 1991 documentary Paris Is Burning. Paris Is Burning explores the early underground ballroom community and its importance in the development of the LGBT community. The film's producer, Jennie Livingston, sheds light on the many competitive categories in the underground scene.
Fast forward to the year 2013. Every Tuesday night on West 39th street in Manhattan, you can still get an intimate view of the ballroom scene at club Escuelita. With the beats of DJ Mike Q spinning in the background under the vocals of Legendary Kassandra Ebony and others, Vogue Knights kicks into full effect just shy of midnight. Founder, Jack Mizarhi (given house name) started the event over a year ago. Dashaun Wesley (also known as the Legendary Dashaun Evisu Wesley) has been active in the scene since 1998. "I was interested in finding the Village Area," says the humbled 5'11 athletic built beau. "I saw people doing this dance on Christopher Street called voguing and I just watched and followed." Since then, Wesley has gained international recognition for his involvement in the ballroom community. He is currently one of the emcees and judges for the event.
Like Wesley, many others have similar stories and come to share their talents every Tuesday night before a panel of judges. Oftentimes, cash prizes are given to the best performer in each category. Voguers battle until the last man (or woman) wins. Spins, dips, duck walks, hand performance, and catwalk are the original elements that judges seek in each battle. Shortly before the start of the night, commentators call out key voguers that are welcomed by claps, snaps, and fierce finger waving in support of their status in the scene. This segment is called LSS; abbreviated for legends, stars, and statements. When asked about the future of Vogue Knights at Escuelita, Wesley responded "I can never tell what the future of clubs or venues such as Vogue Knights. Things like this never last very long, but Escuelita has been supportive of the competitive, energetic, and exciting ballroom community for many years and I expect it to remain so."
To get a close up and personal view of Vogue Knights, the event goes down every Tuesday night at 301 West 39th Street. Cover charge is only $10. However, if you are unable to attend but would like more of an inside view, check out one of the videos listed below for a typical night at Vogue Knights.