Jojo Zolina wants to make sure the glam-rock outfits are just right. “This era is the hardest one,” he says during our morning phone conversation. “It’s Bowie.”
Zolina, the choreographer and dancer behind Vancouver’s House of La Douche, has been rehearsing all week for Pride in Fashion. Among other things, he and his dancers are planning a runway homage to the Thin White Duke. “We’ll bring up all his poses,” Zolina explains. But per La Douche style, the poses will evoke the original but become something new.
Zolina, who lived in the Philippines until he was 12, has a big personality on-stage but is quietly effusive on the phone. He sees connections and possibilities everywhere, which may be why his dancing incorporates so many styles: the Filipino folk dancing he was trained in as a child, acrobatics, voguing, locking, bhangra, and more. He explains that an early influence was watching his uncles break-dance in the streets of Manila after seeing such moves performed on television.
But it was only in 2003, when he was approached by choreographer Ryan Green at the Breaking Dances convention in L.A., that Zolina learned about voguing and waacking. “He was like, ”˜You’re a voguer and a waacker, right?’ And I was like, ”˜What is that?’ ”
When Zolina got back to Vancouver, he researched the styles. “I Googled it, actually,” he says with a laugh. He used the Internet and later the documentaries Paris Is Burning and Pump Up the Volume to study the movements, and came to discover an underground scene whose influence he had felt since his youth.
“They’re actually very similar to the Filipino folk dancing, the elegant movements. Voguing is a series of sharp poses inspired by Vogue magazine. And then waacking is a series of rotating arm movements. Both styles are similar to Bollywood and Thai dancing—arm movements and stuff like that. So between the two, it came very naturally to me.”
A trip to New York in 2006 led Zolina to underground clubs where dance styles are still developing and the dance communities are tight. “That’s what I want for Vancouver,” he explains. “It’s a free expression. A dance language.”
Zolina explains that voguing was born in New York in the 1970s after disco was driven underground as the “devil music” associated with gay culture. “Those dancers responded to the music, they created a whole new language. More than a fad.”
Zolina’s House of La Douche blends voguing with African, Thai, bhangra, and other influences that dancers Jennifer Oleksiuk, Taylor James, and Ross Wirtanen bring to the group.
And if Zolina has his way, he won’t be one of Vancouver’s only voguers and waackers for long. It’s his mission to teach others the styles and help create a new underground. He teaches a number of classes at the Harbour Dance Centre and other venues. He says that this type of dancing just requires an open mind and lots of attitude. “It’s like Pride, where we celebrate everyone.”
House of La Douche performs as part of Pride in Fashion tonight (July 30) at Celebrities Nightclub.