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Review: Night at the Poseum… at World Museum

Review: Night at the Poseum… at World Museum

Words & Pictures, Julia Johnson

Ballroom culture started in the marginalised Black & Latinx LGBTQ+ communities of New York in the second half of the 20th century, as events where everyone could find a space to express themselves without inhibition.

The circumstances of tonight’s ball – taking place at the World Museum and produced in collaboration with National Museums Liverpool – are quite different to those origins, but House of Suarez don’t let these roots get forgotten. And tonight’s proceedings firmly maintain the spirit of what makes the ballroom so appealing: that it’s a place where anybody can become whatever they desire.

Five categories are presented and judged over the course of the night, each as spectacular as the last. Each participating House was assigned one part of the World Museum’s collections to take inspiration from, and all have approached their subjects with awe-inspiring creativity. We’re presented with Egyptian gods and nightmarish insects, a dazzling peacock and a wearable wave. Not a single detail is left forgotten and while the takes and interpretations show each House’s unique approach, the imagination is consistently impressive.

But if fashion is one of the central pillars of the ball, the second is dance – specifically, voguing. The final round of “Choreography” is an absolute show-stopper. Every routine is executed with precision and perfection, but also passion.

Whether selling us on a look or an end-of-days dance sequence, the real energy is centred on how the performers embody their characters. This is not just about the fashion, or the dance: it’s the utter commitment to embodying an attitude. It’s what is shared in common by the sharp execution of House of Korrupt’s cavemen-vs-corporates dance routine, the pure sensuality of House LIPA’s Sex Sirens and the joyous lipsync of ballroom debutantes House of Curio. While Korrupt win best overall House on the night – deservedly – every House has brought us something unique and memorable.

As for us mere mortals of the audience taking it all in, host Rikki Beadle-Blair had set us a mantra earlier in the evening: “you belong here”. At the start of the evening, it’s not entirely obvious that we do, to be honest – there’s a stiffness in the air, a sense of awkwardness about entering into the spirit of the night. But tonight we’ve been shown a world where self-confidence is par for the course, where fantasy becomes reality. And the feeling creeps in that this is perhaps part of us too, after all. Where we belong right at this moment is to be swept up in the spectacular, and let its magic work. By the end the room is filled with utter joy. You could put it down to the wine, except even your stone-cold sober reviewer is swept up in this. Even when I get home, gazing into the mirror, I find myself appraising my reflection in a different way. Thinking about what spark of the ambition and unbridled confidence I’ve witnessed exists within me. Because it does exist, and it’s been kindled by the spirit of this Night At The Poseum. It’s feeling it light up that gets us all belonging – and it’s a glorious thing to be part of.

In the very first episode of the ballroom-based TV series “Pose”, the House of Abundance raid a museum exhibition for costumes for the evening’s event. Nowadays ballroom culture has gone mainstream enough for the borrowing from such an institution to be not only permitted, but endorsed. But it retains the spirit of extravagance, creativity and freedom from convention which have always made it so appealing. If history is open to interpretation, then tonight it – alongside science and nature – has been translated in the most inventive, dazzling, sexy and joyous ways you can imagine.

Words & Images, Julia Johnson
Night at the Poseum, World Museum (produced by House of Suarez Vogue Ball), Saturday 23rd October