SPECIAL FEATURE – JOCQUESE WHITFIELD OF VOGUE & TONE
It was National Dance Week in SF and your browntourage wanted to take advantage of the free classes. Desparately searching the roster for something with an inkling of swag, “Vogue & Tone” was by far the most interesting option.
The class was packed when we arrived, making us nervous about our ability to twerk the new genre. Our nerves eased when Jocquese Whitfield (aka JoQ) started playing the sexiest slow jams for a sensual pelvis-heavy warm-up. Then came crunch time: lines! Let me just say that I now have much respect for every America’s Next Top Model Contestant during their initial runway workshop from Jay or Benny Ninja because it is not easy. If you are shy, or insecure, it shows!
By the end of the class we were all in half the gear we started out with, and wanting more. Little did we know that we were about to reach a whole new level of community and self-love via Joq’s Vogue & Tone tradition: open cypher. Led by Jocquese himself, the cypher gave us a chance to see the other dancers free in their own character. The undying clapping and cheering makes it hard not to feel empowered to take the floor.
Since that moment, we knew we had to keep in touch with this amazing human. With an upcoming performance at Swagger Like Us, the first queer hip hop party in SF (see details)- we took the opportunity to step in for a special browntourage feature:
What inspired you to take on vogue dancing? Did you come out of the womb dancing like this?
I was about 16 years old when I met Vogue Dancing. I was in a Hip-Hop dance troupe and I was getting bored of learning the same style. With that being said, I was seeking something with more character and pizzazz. I watched tons of youtube videos on Vogue. I also watched Paris Is Burning and I’ve been to a couple of Vogue Balls. I knew this was my calling, so I start teaching myself how to Vogue. The culture and the history of Vogue is what inspired me.
I’ve been dancing before I came out of the womb, according to my mother. She was a dancer, so she would listen to music and I would kick “on beat.” I was born to dance!
How did you get involved with teaching and bringing it to the community?
Being a San Francisco Native, I felt it was duty to do something in the community. I started at an early age. I used to teach children at the age of 17. I worked with middle school students and I also coached cheerleaders. I wanted to give back to the community because I grew up learning from others who inspired me to dance. I had friends who worked at studios and the word traveled that I taught previously (hip-hop), but I wanted to teach Vogue. I asked to teach a Vogue class, I was given the opportunity and I’m humbly running with it.
For people seeing vogue for the first time, what’s important to know about what they’re seeing?
The first thing people should see is the “ATTITUDE”. You have to glow with the sassy, fierce, elegance and the edge! The attitude sets the tone for the character (you) and everything will fall in place. You also need to be aware of your lines, angles, and surrounding (dance space). After learning all the elements and you tie it in with your attitude, boom… you’re good to go!
Do you think there is a “vogue revival” happening now?
I believe Vogue is definitely back. It’s been reviving for a while, but it’s finally getting recognized and it’s about damn time! You can see Vogue in today’s pop icons: Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears… etc. It’s super huge in the East Coast (where it originated), it’s also huge across seas. I’m trying to make it HUGE on the West Coast.
Ultimate dream fantasy as a performer?
To travel the world, learn different cultural dances and infuse it with VOGUE. I would love to choreograph for Beyonce, Lady GaGa and Janet Jackson. Also to become an Alvin Ailey dancer and tour with the company! Oh, to have my own TV show based on dancing!
Alright now for our traditional free association question: What comes to mind when you hear the word browntourage?
I think the name is AWESOME! The fact that it is queer people of color just makes me excited. It sounds like a Vogue House “Haus of Browntourage “… I would be love to be apart of that Haus!!
Ha! You’re making us blush. That’s the end of the interview, but its only right to let you exit with a bang. Out-tro song! What jam would you like to leave our readers with?
Want to experience Vogue & Tone? You’re in luck!
Performance: Jocquese will be performing at Swagger Like Us today at El Rio. The party starts at 3 and over at 8. Our very own Hawa Arsala is going to be the Photobooth babe so definitely get your VOGUE ON!
Classes: Drop in on Vogue & Tone class at Dance Mission Theater Tuesdays at 7:30 (watch out though, a new time is coming up soon!).