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What, me vogue?

The secrets of Voguing -- Everything you ever wanted to know about the dance Madonna made treandy

Before there was lambada — way back when Madonna was still Like a Virgin — there was voguing, a peculiar dance phenomenon that peaked in New York's downtown club scene a year ago. Then in late March Madonna unleashed a relentlessly danceable single called ''Vogue'' that has taken this complex dance the way of her cropped blond hair and knee-length cutoffs. Voguing is now officially a trend.

But it isn't easy, as Saturday Night Live's Victoria Jackson reveals here. OK, OK, so she's not a real voguer, but she doesn't look any goofier than all those other voguing novices.

The dance's roots go back to the 1960s, when gay black and Hispanic youths in New York's Harlem elevated drag to the art of voguing — a series of elaborate, free-form poses based on the look of models in Vogue magazine (hence the name). ''Houses'' — as in Paris couture houses — competed in mock fashion-dance shows where voguers in designer drag and wild costumes paraded down runways to disco-pop-funk, striking lightning-quick poses, performing wild hand ballets, and tossing in gymnastics and martial arts moves. ''They've created a world where they can be superstars,'' says New York club promoter Chip Duckett.

In 1988, the dance began catching on — sans drag — in New York's explosively hip downtown arena. Last year the trend ignited, and for 15 minutes or so it blazed, fueled by ''Deep in Vogue,'' a single by Malcolm McLaren, and Taylor Dayne, who featured voguers in her Tell It to My Heart video.

Still, most of the world seemed immune to the bug, until Madonna caught it last summer at a New York voguing ball. ''Vogue,'' which is zipping up the charts, is a phenomenon in its own right. ''I've never seen a single get this kind of response before,'' says St. Louis club deejay Steve Russo. ''Right after it premiered, people were bugging me for it and trying to vogue. Her video tells them, 'Yes, you can.'''

It's a lie. The inexperienced voguer looks less like a runway model than a slaphappy stewardess pointing out the nearest exit. ''It takes a lot of physical stamina to change those poses every quarter beat,'' says Johnny Dynell, producer of the album Elements of Vogue (Extravaganza Records). ''I just got back from Houston, where they think it's some kind of robot dance.'' With Madonna urging the whole world to ''Strike a pose/There's nothing to it,'' you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Originally posted May 04, 1990 Published in issue #12 May 04, 1990 Order article reprints