Manchester Is Burning
Contemporary urban England’s Ballroom scene captured
BY GARY M. KRAMER
The Ballroom scene in
is the setting for Dennis
Keighron-Foster and Amy
Watson’s celebratory documentary
“Deep in Vogue.” The hour-long
fi lm has various Mothers and other
members of different Houses telling
their stories. The participants
include men and women — transgender
and cisgender — black and
white, straight, gay, and genderqueer,
and mostly working class.
The Ballroom scene offers them
a safe space and a place to fi nd a
sense belonging. The personalities
are, course large — especially
Grace Oni Smith and Joshua Hubbard
from the House of Decay, who
are prominently featured.
The fi lmmakers, who immersed
themselves in the scene for a year
in 2017, spoke with Gay City News
about capturing their subjects living
the fantasy and making their
new energizing documentary.
GARY M. KRAMER: How did
you come to fi nd this scene, its
participants, and determine you
should make a doc about it? Have
you participated in Ballroom culture?
AMY WATSON: Dennis has been
going to the balls for a few years;
they’ve been happening since
2008 between Liverpool and Manchester.
The feeling we got from being
in those spaces, it was a kind
of spiritual feeling and we wanted
to share that feeling with as many
people as possible.
Amy did an amazing strut your
stuff at the Manchester International
Festival. Me and my friend
Esme, who is in the fi lm, we got to
walk the ball together as spectators
and lovers of the ball.
WATSON: Dennis did a kind of
John Galliano look at the Red Ball
that the House of Decay threw.
KEIGHRON-FOSTER: Yeah, I
was like a New Romantic Pirate! As
a queer gay dad, the gay scene and
the LGBT scene in Manchester —
it’s lackluster lately. There aren’t a
lot of spaces for people to be themselves
or that don’t fi t into that heteronormative
box, so walking into
ballroom for the fi rst time and Rikki
the emcee coming out and giving
his amazing speech and people
of all different shapes and sizes,
you think, “Oh, this is where I am
meant to belong! Bye bye, Canal
Street” — which is the commercial
gay street in Manchester.
WATSON: You said something
beautiful to me once about being a
feminine gay man and fi nding high
heels attractive but being looked
Even I, as a left wing, gay
queer person, I was stunted and not
willing to express myself or maybe
thinking it was a bit too much. But
as soon as I got into that space, I
saw I was wrong, and expressing
yourself is the way forward.
KRAMER: Can you talk about
your approach to the documentary,
mixing performance footage
with observational footage with
archival footage as well as photographs
WATSON: I guess it comes down
to neither of us had ever made anything
before. We just made it up as
we went along. We needed something
to put over these interviews,
and making a dance fi lm we needed
to showcase dance. We really
wanted to show vogue in the way
that ballet dances are typically
shot — point out the dignity and
artistry of the form in a way that
you don’t always see. Because it’s
in a crowded, excited buzzy room.
We wanted to heighten it much as
KEIGHRON-FOSTER: With the
history of the Ballroom culture
and the fact that this is happening
in Manchester, it was really important
to show the history of the ball,
Grace Oni Smith in Dennis Keighron-Foster and Amy Watson’s documentary “Deep in Vogue.”
Dancers from the House of Ghetto.
➤ DEEP IN VOGUE, continued on p.19
Joshua Hubbard in performance.
GayCityNews.com | December 3- December 16, 2020 15