NYC Artist Goes VOGUE: An Intimate Look Behind ChRZA’s “Walk Away” Music Video and Her Experience Navigating the Underground Kiki Ballroom Scene
There is little media coverage available on the Kiki Scene from a musical perspective, nearly nonexistent coverage from within the EDM community. Upon listening to the opening of “Walk Away”, (a Pop single turned Vogue Remix submitted to us last week) and reading what one rising local Pop artist has to say about the matter, it is quite the story. YourEDM has gotten the pleasure to view what could be New York City’s most fascinating underground subculture, through the lens of one of the most heartfelt submissions we’ve ever received. ChRZA, once a novice to Ball Culture just 5 years ago, has put on display how much the culture has influenced her personally, and the rest of the entertainment world. The answer? More than you know.
Upon first listen, one would say the Ballroom remix for “Walk Away”, is intrinsically, House music. Technically, according to Google and a PBS news report, Ballroom tracks are more precisely considered to be “a blend of disco, funk, hip-hop, house, rhythm and blues, and electronic music.”
Additionally, the dance form applied to the music is called “Voguing”. Voguing is a “creative, energetic dance that mimics the angular postures and stylized movements of fashion models on a catwalk.”
After a deep dive into Ball Culture it’s clear to see the scene is incredibly competitive, highly visual and entertaining. It combines sport, pageantry and performative art all under one roof with beauty and class, despite many of its earliest and current underground functions having taken place in basements and small rental ballroom facilities. Everything about this New York City renaissance in music from its birth in the 70’s to its effects on Pop Culture now, is a phenomena and something worthy of going down in EDM history.
Trouble with Representation and Appropriation
Over the last few years, aspects of Ball Culture has made its way into Pop Culture from celebrity use of voguing choreography in music performances, public exposure to Ballroom/Drag terminology like “It’s giving”, “Tens”, “that’s a chop”, “Slay”, “Queen”, to the more direct appropriation of voguing by the adopting and renaming of techniques as with the “Helicopter Hands Tutorial trend” on Tiktok.
Trends taking off are proof that the community within Ballroom is talented and highly valuable additions to social culture. The impact made by Ballroom performers, Drag Queens, and Queer icons within the space have leaked into the general population of Pop Culture for years yet, without the proper recognition of the history, audiences often never find out who the originators of these widely enjoyed expressions and cultural art are. In the process, creators in the Ballroom space receive no benefits to aid in their fight against marginalization and acceptance in the public or professional
spaces of society we all operate in.
“There is nothing more heartbreaking than to see the world adopt trends from your individual culture and yet, still treat you as an outsider who they have nothing in common with.”
By not recognizing Ballroom’s rich history, or its past and current influences, we are all missing an opportunity to bridge different populations of society together in appreciation for each other. How can you appreciate a community for beginning a trend you don’t know they started?
History lessons aside, Ballroom is a force to be reckoned with globally and one that is still alive and kicking harder than ever before today. It’s divided into 2 main stages where a more mainstream “Ballroom” scene hosts large scale competitive events, attracting endless crowds of attendees and highly coveted performers from across the globe. Meanwhile, the “Kiki” scene is more locally driven for scouting the best talents within communities and socializing overall. Ultimately, whether attending any ball for competition or the enjoyment, what you end up getting here is such a unique elevation to the EDM experience that you just won’t find anywhere else.
In an energetic love letter to her hometown housemates ChRZA made mention of many names who she claims are the Who’s Who Need-to-Know of the New York City Kiki Scene, all who’ve personally influenced her during her time competing in the scene.
-DJ Divoli S’Vere
Responsible for Walk Away’s Remix, Divoli S’vere does not just top the list on Last.FM for “Ballroom Artists with Most listeners”, S’Vere is apparently ChRZA’s #1 choice in musical collaborators as well. The NY native has made head turning remixes out of literal seconds of internet snippets and the results of his flow is a globally viral hit nearly every single time.
Other DJs mentioned are DJ Mike Q, DJ Byrell The Great and some special picks, well known among inner circles, from the depths of the Ballroom rumor mill: DJ Belindzz amd DJ Ignite.
True “Under the Radar” talents featured in Walk Away
-Grace Jones, House of Gabbana: @Jussgracejon
You may recognize her from her controlled movements in ChRZA’s music video debut for “Walk Away”. Grace has been dancing for nearly 2 decades and is a veteran performer in the NYC Kiki Scene. Currently facing multiple injuries, she still overcomes and surpasses obstacles by willing herself through multiple competitions on the regular. Grace represents the silent majority of Ballroom performers who, without any official accolades, has a wealth of wisdom and years of know-how in the realm of everything Ballroom.
-Kamryn “Nunu Old Navy”: @that_girrl_kayy
A new addition to House of Old Navy’s NYC chapter, Kamryn “Nunu Old Navy” has been turning heads in battles and has held her own whether up against a legendary performer or not. NuNu’s moves can be seen in the opening dance scenes for “Walk Away”, her smooth and fluid movements compliment Grace and ChRZA while also attracting audience attention to a style that’s all her own. Nunu may be the name ringing bells on a whole ‘nother level come 2024. Watch out for her, and ask about her!
In a letter full of stories and names too long to publish, it’s been a rewarding and educative experience to read in full. ChRZA has succeeded in winning over a writers’ room full of hearts, we expect this will not be the last we hear of her or write about Ballroom. We wish ChRZA all the luck on the mission to bring her House and her music to the top. Look out for @HouseofOldNavy on IG and updates on ChRZA’s next moves www.chrza.com