House of Suarez: Vogue Deco and Other Stories

House of Suarez

Our live arts critic C James Fagan continues his Homotopia experience with a confusing evening of strutting, fashion and Voguing…

So it’s been a week since I attended, or wrote about, a performance from the Homotopia Festival, and given that previous performances have been thoughtful, slightly disturbing, and of course entertaining, the glamorous-sounding House of Suarez presents: Vogue Deco & Other Stories, performed at The Bluecoat, has a lot to live up to, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t.

Upon entering the performance space I discover that the area has been configured to resemble a fashion show. Two sets of seats face each other, and taking a seat, I look out at the gathering audience wondering how this format will feature in tonight’s proceedings. I might have my answer soon as the house lights go down and music starts. With this fanfare come the dancers, each taking their place on the dance floor.

Somewhere in the mix is a sampled voice speaking about Voguing, a form of dance born of the dance floor, which drew on the stylisation of fashion magazines to create a unique type of choreography. Dating back to to the 1960s, it grew into something almost religious, with chapters and houses engaging in competitions. However, it wouldn’t filter through to popular culture until the nineties, thanks to the documentary Paris is Burning and the pop behemoth Madonna.

House of Suarez

Meanwhile, the dancers, dressed in a mixture of catsuits, feathered collars and corsets, begin to stride up and down the catwalk. They’re so close you can hear their feet hitting the floor as they pass. But what of the dancing? Well, I recognise the strong, rigid arm movements, often framing the posing faces I’ve come to expect from ‘Voguers’. I’m thinking about it — and, that’s it! — it feels like there’s something missing. Is it a competitive element? After all, Voguing is all about out-doing and outperforming other dancers. This feels more like a showcase, not that it isn’t enjoyable.

I then regard my position as an audience member, particularly when a dancer dressed in a black and white, leopard-spotted catsuit struts proudly in front of me. I mean I’ve seen some things, often even this close, and in the majority of cases as an audience member I’d politely watch and applaud at the right point. This train of thought leads me to consider that the missing element here might be the audience; it’s not that we’re unappreciative, it’s more that the performance itself might have been enlivened if we were more rowdy, and cheering and clapping. There is a minority of the audience who do so; I don’t, because that sounds too much like joining in and having fun.

I’m enjoying the dancing; it’s entertaining, and the dancers move with high levels of confidence. There are moments that stick out, as when two performers interlock their arms and another scooted down the catwalk with one leg behind his head (which I believe is a popular Voguing movement). Soon enough it’s over; quite quickly in fact, so much so that the end takes the audience unaware and we stay in our seats unsure. The whole thing felt very brief, though that’s not a bad thing; I just have a feeling that I’ve seen this piece at the ‘wrong time’.

The only way I can explain myself is that what I’ve seen tonight seemed an ‘amuse-bouche’, to be served before the meatier dishes Homotopia has to offer.

C James Fagan

Read more Homotopia features and reviews here

The main Homotopia Festival continues until end November 2013; see full programme here

Posted on 20/11/2013 by thedoublenegative