Rashaad Newsome, en Vogue
BY Jordan Hruska
May 17 2010 7:35 PM ET
During the Biennial, Newsome also choreographed a live vogue dance performance called Five that packed the museum's ground floor. Five was based on the style of vogue femme and its five core elements. Newsome chose five dancers to personify the vogue femme gospel: hands, cat walk, floor work, spin-dips, and duck walking (a contested sixth element consists of hair, valued most by transgender vogue performers). Each dancer wore mostly black, punctuated with bright neon-colored bands at their wrists, ankles, and extremities. Although it’s not the usual vogue fashion, these effects helped Newsome film the dancers' movements in a software program that he created to record the algorithms picked up by the bright colors.
As part of the performance, Newsome filmed the dancers and recorded their moves using the software on his computer and documented where their hands, feet and heads went in different colored lines — based on the color that he selected. On a screen behind them, a visual, extended representation of the moves was shown. It looked like a human Spirograph, but much more erratic and mesmerizing.
“A lot of the vocabulary used to talk about dance revolves around line. And drawing historically is the starting point of any kind of piece, so it seemed very natural,” Newsome says as he shows me a video of the performance.
Renowned Philadelphia vogue competition host and DJ Kevin Movado introduced each of the dancers onto the floor while live musical accompaniment from discreet instruments like violin, saxophone, drums, and guitar were layered onto Newsome’s self-created house beat. And just as in Shade Compositions, an epic buildup of sound and movement terminated the evening.
It’s not a surprise that Newsome used to be a DJ. His augmenting and collage of image and sound is so much a part of his works that he humorously refers to himself as a producer. His works are productions, and the process of his creation charges them just as much as the fleeting moves of the subjects he portrays. Ideas of sex, identity, and genre are not static — they’re just the next brilliant step on the march to something larger and more final.
“My work is like a rich language,” he says. “What is interesting for me is how you learn the words of vogue and then put them together to make the language. What the kids do is so much akin to how I work.”