From voguing to AfrikFusion

Dancer Omari Mizrahi presents free events Feb. 20 and 21

With its quick wit, glamorous poses and elaborate, rapid-fire pantomimes, the dance style known as voguing raises gender performance to an art form. Born in the black and Latino LBGTQ communities of Harlem, New York, it evolved from drag ballroom competitions in the 1960s; coalesced into competitive “houses” in the 1970s and ‘80s; and came to wider recognition through artists such as Madonna and Beyoncé.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 20 and 21, Omari Mizrahi, of the Hall of Famer House of Mizrahi, will visit St. Louis for a series of free events exploring the history and techniques of voguing, ballroom and associated dance styles.

“Omari combines voguing and ballroom with West African dance and contemporary dance to create what he calls AfrikFusion,” said Jeffrey Q. McCune, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies, and of African and African-American studies, both in Arts & Sciences. “In a moment of excitement around TV shows such as FX’s ‘Pose’— which looks at ballroom culture and historic vogue balls — Omari’s skills and techniques as dancer and teacher are exciting and welcome.”

Omari Mizrahi (Courtesy of the artist)

Events begin at 2 p.m. Feb. 20 with an “AfrikFusion/VogueAfrik” master class, which is open to all Washington University students. The class will be in the Mertz Dance Studio in Mallinckrodt Center.

At 6:30 p.m. that evening, McCune will host a public Q&A with Mizrahi, titled “Voguing/Posing: Black Dance, Study & Activism,” in Steinberg Hall Auditorium. For more information about either the campus class or talk, call 314-935-4486 or visit afas.wustl.edu.

Events will conclude at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 with an introductory class on VogueAfrik at COCA, 524 Trinity Ave. Students will learn the five elements of voguing: catwalk, duckwalk, floor performance, spins and dips, and hand performance. The class is free and open to the public but space is limited. To register, contact COCA at 314-561-4898 or registration@cocastl.org.

Mizrahi’s visit is sponsored by African & African-American Studies, as part of a series of events marking the department’s 50th anniversary. The visit is presented in collaboration with COCA and the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences, with additional support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Institutional Diversity and from the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.

About Omari Mizrahi

Born in Senegal, West Africa, Mizrahi (Ousmane Wiles) developed a passion for the arts thanks to his parents, Olukośe Wiles and Marie Basse Wiles, founders of the Maimouna Keita School of African Dance in New York. Over the years, he has trained in contemporary, vogue, hip-hop, West African and house styles, with artists such as Ronald K. Brown, Assane Konte and Ephrat Asherie.

Mizrahi has performed with Rashaad Newsome, John Legend, Gargon City, Wunmi, Gala and Forces, among many others. In 2016, he choreographed and performed with recording artist Jidenna at the MTV Video Music Awards and last year was featured in Janet Jackson’s “Made for Now” video.

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