Ball culture  

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"Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, the nascent house music era, Paris Is Burning (1990) chronicles the ball culture of New York City's disenfranchised African American and Latino gay and transgendered patrons who were the same patrons of nightclubs such as the Paradise Garage." --Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ball culture, drag ball culture, the house-ballroom community, and similar terms describe an underground LGBT subculture that originated in 1920s New York City, United States, in which people "walk" (i.e., compete) for trophies, prizes, and glory at events known as balls. Ball culture consists of events that mix performance, dance, lip-syncing, and modeling. Events are divided into various categories, and participants "walk" and compete for prizes and trophies. As a countercultural phenomenon, ball culture is rooted in necessity and defiance. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, members of the underground LGBTQ+ community in large cities began to organize masquerade balls known as "drags" in defiance of laws which banned individuals from wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender.

Participants are mainly young African-American and Latin American members of the LGBTQ community. Although some balls were integrated, the judges were always white, and African American participants were often excluded from prizes or judged unfairly. In the early 20th century, African Americans and Latinos started their own balls. Ball culture then grew to include primarily gay, lesbian, and trans blacks and latinos.

Attendees dance, vogue, walk, pose, and support one another in one or more of the numerous drag and performance competition categories. Categories are designed to simultaneously epitomize and satirize various genders and social classes, while also offering an escape from reality. The culture extends beyond the extravagant events as many participants in ball culture also belong to groups known as "houses", a longstanding tradition in LGBT communities, and racial minorities, where chosen families of friends live in households together, forming relationships and community to replace families of origin from which they may be estranged.

Ball culture was first captured and shown to a mainstream audience in Jennie Livingston's documentary, Paris is Burning (1990).

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ball culture" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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