Editors Note: If Cities Could Dance captures dancers’ personal stories and their deep-rooted relationships to their communities. Watch a new episode every Tuesday through May 28, 2018.
In the world of vogue, a pedestrian walkway can be a catwalk, an alleyway can be stage, and the sunbathers in Dolores Park can be an adoring crowd of fashion photographers.
According to Jocquese Whitfield (aka Sir JoQ), voguing — equal parts hard edges and soft curves — embodies the spirit of San Francisco. “San Francisco is dramatic because the rent is increasing, but it’s soft cause we're still sitting here, unbothered,” he says.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Whitfield found vogue in his junior year of high school when he was looking for an alternative to the hip hop dance scene. “Vogue was that push that I needed to come out,” he says. “It shaped me to be the person I am today.”
Vogue balls — and the houses that formed around them — have long been sources of community and support for LGBTQ people of color. Voguing as a dance form draws from fashion poses, martial arts, gymnastics and pantomime; it gained popularity in 1970s Harlem. The style later took root in Oakland and San Francisco, and spread worldwide after Madonna's international hit "Vogue."
Today, Whitfield teaches classes at Dance Mission Theater and the ODC. For him, vogue is about creating a safe space for empowerment and belonging, and spreading that message to as many people as possible. “It’s okay to be fierce, it’s okay to be fabulous, it’s okay to feel amazing about yourself!”
Watch Sir JoQ, Shea Mizrahi and DJ Spiider catwalk, duckwalk, spin, dip and drop through San Francisco — from Chinatown to the MUNI tracks to the Mission. –Text by Sarah Hotchkiss