Ballroom is worldwide, truly! And it's historied, as we have pointed out time and time again. Now Philadelphia's ballroom community, which celebrated its 30 year anniversary this year, is finally getting the spotlight treatment.
Philadelphia's ballroom scene is widely known as the third city of ballroom, in terms of how things expanded. New York was first, then things traveled to Newark, New Jersey and then finally Philly. The 1989 Onyx Ball kicked things off, organized by Michael Gaskins, and at the time there were about 10 categories. Gaskins’ house of Onyx became the first house. But 30 years later, the scene is bustling with ten active houses according to the Philadelphia Ballroom Alliance and notables like Kevin JZ Prodigy and Makayla Lanvin whose talents are known worldwide.
The Philly Inquirer has released a multi-pronged feature on the community featuring a 20 minute documentary as well as a multi-part feature. In it, they go over this history and major players like Alvernian Prestige, overall father of the house of Prestige who is considered the “Mayor of Philadelphia” in the community. He organizes the Dorian Corey Awards Ball (the largest annual ball in the city, organized in honor of Dorian Corey) and operates as a de facto historian for locals. The feature also details integral figures like Renee Karan who was thought of as the “mother of all mothers” but tragically passed.
Contributors to the project truly break down the scene for the uninformed and provide some pretty high quality footage. Historical documents and files have been scanned in, original imagery from 2019 balls like The List part 3, Miyake-Mugler’s Return of Porcelain, as well as the North Carolina ball 13 Reasons Why, are all included. They even go so far as to define words like butch queen and house, in addition to breaking down examples of different categories.
“I want this culture to be studied,” Madelyn Morrison, who made her name in the community as Aamina, told the paper. “I want to hear about it in college lecture halls and part of that is admitting that ballroom culture is indeed in fact Black history.”
And it truly is.