After a five year hiatus from the ballroom scene the legendary House of Xtravaganza returned to the ballroom floor over the weekend during the Moda Ball in New York City. The popular underground competition between predominantly black and latino gay men for decades has served as a rite of passage and refuge from the harsh realities of being a double minority.
Ballroom culture and the highly artistic and athletic dance form know as voguing received national attention after pop icon Madonna ushered it into the mainstream and the subsequent release of the documentary Paris is Burning in the early 90's.
While the ball scene and those who frequent balls have acquired sketchy reputations over the years, breakout artists have also emerged like the late Willi Ninja(pictured above-middle) & Octavia St. Laurent Mizrahi. AIDS has taken the lives of many of the legendary ballroom children but a few still remain. Father Jose Xtravaganza(pictured above-right) is one of the survivors and used the ballroom to catapult him into a professional dance career that earned him a spot on Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour. He recalls meeting Madonna for the first time and auditioning for the tour during a recent interview with Black Book Magazine.
From Black Book Magazine:
Jose:So I was friends with her (Debi Mazar) from that club scene. And she was always Madonna’s friend and hair stylist, confidante, whatever. And Debi’s like, “I’m bringing Madonna to the club. You better be there, Saturday night, at the Sound Factory.” So I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. You’re gonna bring Madonna, whatever.” So it just so happens that she did. Sound Factory, at its peak ... it was New York City at its best. I was very fortunate to be there, to witness all of this. It was amazing.
So I see this woman sitting on top of a speaker, with a long trench coat and all of her hair under a newspaper boy’s hat. Very stylish. And Debi’s like, “Someone would like to meet you. I told her all about you, and how you do this vogue thing, and she wants to meet you.” And, I’m like “Noooooooo.” And she’s like, “Yeah, come.” So she brings me to Madonna, who’s sitting on the speaker. “This is Madonna. Madonna, meet Jose.” And I say, “Hi, nice to meet you.” And I shake her hand. And right off the bat, she says, “I heard you’re the shit. I heard you’re the one that can do this vogue thing. And I wanna see.”
And I was like, “Uh I’m not really dressed for it,” cause remember, you’re voguing, you want to be able to move, because a lot of the things incorporate this movement on the floor. And I remember being really well dressed, because it’s what you did in New York City at that time—you got dressed up and went to the club. So Madonna made someone in her entourage take their jeans off and give them to me, so that I can take off the slacks that I had on. So me and my friend Lewis ended up performing, auditioning for her right then and there, on the spot. It was like, “Okay now? On cue, on command? Whatever you say.” And we did it, and she invited us to the audition—it was 5,000 dancers to beat, in New York City alone, you know? Only seven were going, only seven spots. I went Friday night to the club, and I went to the audition Saturday morning. And she was there, and we were late.
Carmen: Like always ...
Jose: And she stopped everything. She was like, “Oh the divas, the vogue divas are here? Okay.” And I remember going to the back, and she was like, “No, you two to the front.” We were so amazed by her, as she was by us. It was amazing.
Watch Jose Xtravganza in a classic clip at the height of the ballroom era below:
Old School Xtravaganza
Old School Ballroom DVD | MySpace Video