I walked inside to a dance floor shrouded in lights but completely empty. A crowd was gathered around three sides of the floor, dancing and cheering wildly to a beat provided by the DJ, and on the fourth, sat a panel of four judges dressed lavishly, in bold, vibrant colours, and looking genuinely spectacular.
It was to be my first experience of the famous Berlin voguing scene.
Voguing and the ballroom culture emerged in 1950s and 60s New York and is mainly associated with queer, black, and Latin communities. It offers an inclusive space for creative expression of self and dancers ‘walk’ (participate) in various categories. It is now also something which has become synonymous with Berlin, as it grows into a European capital of voguing.
Some of the categories on Saturday included ‘best newcomer‘ and ‘best runway’ in addition to so many more. Participants are judged on their performance, dancing, and look. They walk in pairs with one person selected to go through to the next round and then they keep competing within new pairs until only the winner remains. Judges give points for creativity, style, and extravagant outfits.
Whilst it is a competition (red statue trophies were available to be won), the atmosphere is one of total, mutual respect. Contestants cheer each other on, the audience, although they do have their favourites, enthusiastically support every single person who walks, and the warmth and openness in the crowd is immense. Self-love and confidence are championed here and it is powerful. It is a place to make new friends and to appreciate performative, creative expression.
My experience of the night was one of awe. I left feeling amazed, empowered and energised. The atmosphere was purely infectious positivity. Initially I had been hesitant - entry was 15 euros - however it was undoubtedly worth every cent and more.