The last Friday night of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival saw New York "vogue" and New Orleans "bounce" dance cultures duke it out on the dance floor at the New Orleans Wax Museum. The result was a throwdown of larger proportions than even Bobby Flay could imagine.
Judged by bounce-impresarios, Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby, the competition was presented by One Million Square Feet of Culture (1MSQFT). Backed by Microsoft and Windows, the initiative, "offers physical space to cultural partners and their creative communities to support the creation of new work in film, dance, music, food, art, and fashion."
To date, 1MSQFT has programmed nearly 60,000 square feet of culture at festivals like Art Basel Miami, The Sundance Film Festival and New York Fashion Week. At New Orleans Jazz Fest, the plan was to program 35,533 square feet of music, dance and fringe culture in collaboration with non-profit arts organization, New Orleans Airlift.
"Fringe" was clearly the operative word as legions of bounce-experts and vogue-virtuosos gathered to witness the wildest post-Jazz Fest event of the fortnight. Sharks vs. Jets, Hatfield vs McCoy, Kramer vs. Kramer; other rivalries paled in comparison to this dance-floor donnybrook.
"It was very interesting," said Big Freedia afterwards. "I think they all went hard."
The competition was made up of pros, amateurs and others who simply imbibed enough to have an inflated opinion of their own bounce prowess. Regardless of the motives behind the moves, the crowd greeted each with rabid enthusiasm.
Clad in hot pants, '80s fitness gear, fishnets, sheer one-pieces, masks, a Harlequin outfit and many, many fluorescent accents, the adversaries performed actions that required flexibility, self-confidence and highly dexterous posteriors.
"Bouncing is part of the culture," said New Orleans native and bounce representative, Leslie Foster. "It stems from the music."
Some instruction was offered the day prior when a handful of the night's more veteran performers offered guidance at a bounce seminar. "They taught us how to wiggle and wobble and do all that stuff," explained Foster.
Categories were loosely defined, but included Voodoo Lady, Mr. Jazzman, a Razzle Dazzle concept (which was explained as having something to do with a PayLess ShoeSource slogan), Bizarre and one that asked participants to recreate their favorite exhibit from the wax museum - a harder ask due to the breakneck, acrobatic bounce/vogue movements.
In the end bounce prevailed and champs were crowned in each category. The night evolved into a dance party with much novice bouncing and vogueing propelled by the open bar. While the event was anything but static, considering the location, a wax tableaux depicting the historic revelry must be forthcoming.
All photo credits: Thomas Prior