When around London have you ever been to an event like Groove Sanctuary at Madame Jojo’s, Funk Off at the Arc Bar or WAAVO and couldn’t figure out the new trend of dancing with flailing arms, posing and seductive moves? Then it’s probably waacking or one of its varieties: vogueing, punking or vogue femme. As the style begins to spread worldwide, the question many bemused people are asking is: What is waacking? and is it a house dance?
Waacking (usually spelt with two A) is a dance form that emerged from Los Angeles around the disco era and is presently going through a resurgence in night clubs in America and Europe. It was Soul Train in the 70s that brought waacking to the public’s attention when dancers like Tyrone Proctor would swing their arms wildly in time to the music. He later on formed the group The Outrageous Waack Dancers with another pioneer of the style, Jody Watley of pop group Shalamar.
Not to be confused with locking, waack dancing is recognisable by it’s femininity, flailing arms and vogues (pausing while dancing to pose), using the arms hit every beat in the music to extenuate musicality. Both women and men can waack, with men trying to outdo their female counterparts in looking more feminine.
Waacking also derives from 80s vogueing (think Madonna), and influences that spin off this include punking (heterosexual waacking) which is more aggressive, and vogue femme which was used to entertain prison inmates.
Waacking is returning to dance studios and night clubs around the world since the Imperial House of Waacking (IHOW) was founded on 17 November 2008. Two years on, it’s still as outrageous, rediscovering its identity and making its way back on to the dance floor, with regional chapters of the IHOW pushing the style forward across the globe from Russia to Sweden and the UK, where groups such as the London Waacktitioners (waackers) and House of Legacy (vogue) pave the way forward for the emerging scene.
We spoke to Aus Ninja, waacker and protégé of waacking pioneer Tyrone Proctor about the dance style and why it’s making a comeback…
What is waacking: Q&A with Aus Ninja of the Imperial House of Waacking
I already saw the trend was gonna to happen when I got into it in 2004, I knew that it was going to catch on around 2005 before it even picked up. Waacking didn’t pick up in the public eye until about the middle of 2008.
As far as waacking was concerned there was one class, and there was no way for our culture to grow from it. Seeing as there was no culture, we started to bring it into the clubs again around 2005. There were a couple of other people doing it, mainly the people who were doing it as a style in the clubs in New York up until people started to catch on around early 2007.
What’s the difference between waacking and vogueing? Are they the same?
The difference is, waacking birthed from funk and disco music, so the beats per minute were faster. To be able to hit the beats while you’re dancing, they [waack dancers] would use their arms to propel the beat: you would make your body an instrument and hit every beat.
(For a better description of waacking and vogue dances, see below)
What was the style of music in the oldschool and newschool?
Waacking is from the disco. People have started to play house for waacking because they didn’t understand what the original music was, and still most people don’t really understand the original culture of what waacking is, and it gets confusing when you put the waacking to certain music.
What do waackers wear? Is there a set way waackers dress?
I guess right now it’s an own individual style. The original style that people who used to do waacking was really tight pants or bell bottoms, button up shirts with the sleeves cut off and platform shoes or boots, then moving on it got to the suits, zoot suits. Moving into the 80s it got into more of a punk/punk rock and 80s fashion, but there was no set way a waacker would dress as long it was fashionable and up to date.
Fast forward to 2010. Where is it going, are you going to keep spreading it until it gets so big it collapses?
If it gets so big that it collapses it doesn’t mean that it collapses for the underground. The underground is always going to keep it, it just means that the commercial world will have taken it in, as they do with most of the dances, and try to turn it into something else and milk it as much as they can and can’t be the next b-boying!
Equally ludicrous, wild and outrageous, waacking and vogue dancing are often confused.
“Waacking is more fluent, you hit poses, but in between poses you’re still hitting the beat with your hands and your body moving all across the floor,” Aus explained. “Vogue is just posing, and vogue is what you do in between the pose, so it’s like posing and then the transition between the next pose.”
In addition to the umbrella style of vogue, the dance can also be broken down into its sub categories.
“There are lots of different styles of posing. Vogue femme came in from the jails as a form of entertainment for the rest of the inmates that were there. The original style of the vogue is called vogue performance, and it took the elements of house, b-boying (breakdance), gymnastics, popping, martial arts, and hitting poses of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek gods, everything like that.”
With 1980 trends back in fashion, all we know is waacking is here to stay – watch out for our interview with Tyrone “The Bone” Proctor in January!