The Vogue Ball 2019 – The Atlantis Ball: Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool
Shaun Ponsonby and Vicky Pea are once again blown away by the House of Suarez’s Vogue Ball.
Visually, we thought it might have been difficult for House of Suarez to top last year’s theme of The Toy Box, but five minutes into The Ball of Atlantis, it was fairly obvious that the Vogue Ball is never short on ambition.
As ever, the evening opened with a piece choreographed by head honcho Darren Suarez that sets the theme for the evening; the ancient Greek myth of the lost city of Atlantis. The myth, told by Plato, sees the morally bankrupt city of Atlantis punished when the gods sent one terrible night of fire and earthquakes that caused the city to sink into the sea.
There is an immediate rush of images that enter your mind just hearing this tale, and the possibilities on the runway are endless. The opening piece appeared to set the stage by telling the story of Atlantis. It was dangerous, edgy and brimming with sexuality. A perfect prelude for what was to come.
Although the Vogue Ball under the House of Suarez has undoubtedly opened up beyond the LGBQ+ community, there will always be that element to it. In a similar fashion, no matter how expensive tickets become for football matches, it will always be a working class game. No matter how many white kids listen to Hip Hop, it will always be black music. This isn’t even necessarily down to who built these forms, but who they empowered. Even as a white gay guy, I have to check myself before going in and respect the cathedral I’m entering.
Host Rikki Beadle-Blair is an instant reminder of where this culture comes from and what it represents. As queer as they come, he sashays onto the stage in a wedding dress before gradually removing various items from it, and ending up scantily clad. He tells the history to those who may not be aware, promising that for one night, we can all be black and gay.
Beadle-Blair is the regular host for the Vogue Ball, and we’re now at a point where we can’t imagine anybody else hosting. He has it perfected. He keeps it moving, involves the crowd, he makes us laugh, solidifies the bond between performer and audience, dances and continually changes into one peculiar look after another.
In fact, there were times where we almost wished he could have won a category. Most notably, when introducing the lip sync round. In the middle of explaining what the judges were looking for, he stopped and exclaimed “Oh, I’ll just show you!” The DJ then struck up Diana Ross’ Muscles, and Beadle–Blair provided one of the highlights of the night. Lip syncing as Miss Ross cooed “I want muscles all over his body,” he ripped away his outfit until he was rolling on the floor in his underwear.
That isn’t to take away from the performances themselves. We can’t overstate how incredible everybody was. The creativity throughout all of the categories from all of the Houses regularly took our breath away.
It feels cruel to single anybody out for praise, but I guess we are cruel bitches. Some of the reliable favourites brought it as they always do, most notably House of Corrupt and House of Suarez themselves. In fact, there was one particular member of House of Suarez who was genuinely striking every time he made his way onto the stage.
But most refreshing were the new Houses – particularly House of Flava from Leeds – who brought a new energy to the runway.
And, you know what? It genuinely doesn’t matter who wins. To quote Sly & The Family Stone, “Everybody is a star”. Despite this, it was nice to see the judges being given a central role too. Indeed, the biggest laugh of the night came when The Vivienne – local legend and currently a favourite on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK – was judging the lip sync round. “Just remember, to all of the people who took part in this round. Whether you win or lose; at least you’re better than Gothy fucking Kendoll.”
If there is a criticism, it is a silly one; the DJ played a bit too much Rihanna for our liking. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard for this writer (with the exception of We Found Love, which is an enduring classic no matter who sang it). But that’s obviously a quibble so petty that it almost undermines the entire review.
We wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to everybody involved – especially the creative team at the House of Suarez. Perhaps the greatest testament of your success comes from a friend of ours who came to the Ball for the first time; “I’ve lived in Liverpool for 12 years. I’ve been to everything; Oye, LIMF – all of it. But I have never seen anything like this in my life. I’m definitely coming back next year.”
At it’s best, the freedom that this culture inspires is what makes it so worthwhile. It is empowering, and it stays with you long after you’ve stumbled home.
Photo Gallery below by Vicky Pea
👇 Photo Gallery 👇
(click to enlarge)
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