Voguing to an interactive beat with Black Magic: FIVE

2 minute read
New York Live Arts will present 'Black Magic: FIVE' at Icebox Project Space this weekend. (Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts)
New York Live Arts will present 'Black Magic: FIVE' at Icebox Project Space this weekend. (Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts)

Artist Rashaad Newsome’s interdisciplinary performance piece Black Magic: FIVE draws from dance, music, and computer coding to create something new. Newsome is an artist who works in sculpture, collage, video, sound, and performance. He is also known for the King of Arms Art Ball, an annual live dance and performance competition which provides space for the work of emerging artists and celebrates queer artists of color.

Come on, vogue

The King of Arms Art Ball includes the LGBTQ vogue community, and voguing is central to FIVE. Vogue, or voguing, is a stylized form of house dance that emerged in the underground queer culture of Harlem balls in the late 1980s. Balls involved drag and performance competitions, and they offered safe and celebratory spaces for African American and Latinx LGBTQ folks. In 1990, voguing received two forms of mainstream exposure: Jennie Livingston’s Sundance prize-winning documentary Paris Is Burning, and Madonna’s “Vogue,” inspired by the pop star's exposure to Harlem house-ball dancing. Both the song and video helped to bring a subculture into the mainstream, and the documentary—added to Netflix several years ago—remains powerful. Since the 80s and 90s, voguing has spread around the world and continued to evolve.

The five elements

FIVE highlights the Vogue Femme style of dance, which originated in the African American and Latinx LGBTQ community of 1970s Harlem. Vogue Femme includes five elements of movement and gesture: hands, catwalk, floor performance, spin dips, and duck-walking. Newsome’s FIVE will take these to a new level through innovations in music and technology. As dancers take the floor, musicians will improvise an interactive soundtrack that blends sound and movement. Some musicians will play instruments, and others—including a hip-hop MC, an opera singer, and a gospel choir—will use their voices to accompany the dancers. Meanwhile, custom motion-tracking technology will map dancers’ movements into digital drawings projected on a screen above them, in real time. A feast for the senses, FIVE combines sound, movement, and motion-capture drawings with the past and present of vogue dance in order to imagine its future.

What, Where, When:

Black Magic: FIVE will be performed at Icebox Project Space, 1400 N. American Street, Philadelphia, at 8pm on Saturday, November 23, 2019. Tickets can be purchased online. Icebox Project Space is ADA compliant. Call for information about accessibility: (267) 282-1332.

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