Clubbers' Decktionary: Ballroom
A guide to the myriad genres of clubbing, from Trouble's DJ Hobbes
Ballroom aka ballroom house, or Ha, proper noun: house sub-genre, which, much like Chicago Footwork/Juke and Detroit Jit, owes its lifeblood to the highly expressive dancers (‘voguers’) who dominate the scene. Also similar to B-more, the music is raw, with fierce snares and crashes, heavy kicks and short, snappy vocals. Recent strains have seen a proliferation of samples from R&B and pop.
Origins Ballroom exploded in to the international consciousness via Malcolm Maclaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra’s 1989 dance hit, ‘Deep In Vogue’, Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary, Paris Is Burning, and Madonna’s gargantuan pop smash, ‘Vogue’, the same year. But the roots of New York’s LGBT drag scene go right back to the annual queer masquerade balls of late 19th Century Harlem and the Lower East Side. Musically, the balls have always espoused the dance music du jour. But, while Madonna’s spotlight spelled the beginning of the end for the more tightly-knit 80s scene, a clutch of DJ/producers have recently emerged to re-define it.
Key figures Junior Vasquez’s 1989 production as Ellis D, ‘Just Like A Queen’, plus his 1994 hit, ‘X’, Masters At Work’s 1991 record, ‘The Ha Dance’, Danny Tenaglia’s 1992 hit with The Daou, ‘Surrender Yourself’, Armand van Helden’s 1994 smash, ‘The Witch Doktor’, and Green Velvet’s 1994 behemoth, ‘Flash’, are all still recognised as ballroom classics today. Of the new school, New Jersey’s DJ MikeQ, Atlanta’s Legendary DJ Angel X and Washington, DC’s Vjuan Allure are its most prominent champions, alongside Bok Bok, L-Vis 1990 and Kingdom (via the Night Slugs and Fade To Mind labels), in London.
You’re likely to hear some ballroom at any house night in Scotland.