Being queer and/or trans has always been challenging. Add to that, being persons of colour, then life’s treacherous road of survival and acceptance can seem to be overflowing with bigotry, bullying and unfettered discrimination—sometimes by a few in the LGBTQ community who—sadly, ironically—feel superior in their lily-white skin.
What’s a girl to do?
In the early ‘70s a group of black and Latino men living in Harlem took it upon themselves to open dance houses where one and all could express themselves on either side (or both!) of the masculine/feminine divide. By the ‘80s the resultant dance form, voguing, was in full swing. Pushing that into the mainstream came via Madonna’s song/video “Vogue” in 1990, and the award-winning documentary (notably at Sundance), Paris Is Burning of the same year.
It took many decades for the phenomenon to land in ultra-conservative, frequently dangerous Mexico City.
Thanks to the determination and creativity of creators/editors Ocean Vashti Jude and Lauren E. Zubia Calsada, the rest of the planet can now get an insider’s look into the makeup and hair, costuming and “story for every movement” choreography that comes to glorious life in ballroom competitions and spontaneous bursts of artistic expression on the streets of the world’s sixth largest city.
Welcome to House of Mamis. Founded by ex-designer turned dancer/entrepreneur “Mother” Eduardo Mendoza in 2017, the goal of providing a safe, caring, nurturing environment for the outcast and marginalized “different” amongst us, appears to be a magnificent success.
The compelling notion that “my body be my instrument” is demonstrated over and over by Mother and her current residents as they take their classes then strut their considerable “stuff” down the runways.
In their own words:
“[Dance] is an expression of self [especially moods],” Rio.
“[Mamis] saved me from depression,” Alexis.
“I am done with rules and parameters,” Negraconda.
“Even though my persona is a serpent, I still feel some fear [when out on the street],” Dalia.
Andrés Solórzano’s camera captures the tones, movements and revelations as honestly as the house “performers/residents” share their experiences. The music (composer B11ce) is readily up to the task of keeping the dancers moving and listeners engaged. And while the material is broken up into six short sections, the complete meal is heartily recommended.
Towards the end, the silent image of a covey of fresh-cut, colourful flowers displayed in a street-side shop, is the visual metaphor that deftly complements the themes.
One can only hope that—at some point in the not too distant future—society will accept one and all no matter how they express their deepest feelings and sexuality. JWR