Saturday, August 9, 2014

Voguing Death Drops & Death Drops In Other Performing Arts (information, speculation & examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This posts showcases several different performance arts movements that are known as "death drops". Featured in this post are examples of death drops in LGBT ballroom voguing, RuPaul's Drag Race television show and other drag performances, majorette/contemporary dance groups (battle stands), figure skating, salsa dancing, and contemporary swing dancing.

This post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

All forms of death drops can be very dangerous, and shouldn't be attempted without proper instruction or practice.

"Vogue, or voguing, is a highly stylized, modern house dance that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1980s.[1][2] It gained mainstream exposure when it was featured in Madonna's song and video "Vogue" (1990),[3] and when showcased in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning... After the new millennium, Vogue returned to mainstream attention when the dance group Vogue Evolution competed on the fourth season of America's Best Dance Crew.[4]

Inspired by Vogue magazine, voguing is characterized by model-like poses integrated with angular, linear, and rigid arm, leg, and body movements. This style of dance arose from Harlem ballrooms by African Americans and Latino Americans in the early 1960s. It was originally called "presentation" and later "performance".[2] Over the years, the dance evolved into the more intricate and illusory form that is now called "vogue". Voguing is continually developed further as an established dance form that is practiced in the gay ballroom scene and clubs in major cities throughout the United States—mainly New York City.

Formal competitions occur in the form of balls held by "houses"—family-like collectives of LGBT dancers and performers.[2][5]

...Hand performance refers to the illusions and movements of the arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. The catwalk is the upright sashaying in a linear fashion. The duckwalk refers to the crouched, squatted, foot-kicking and scooting movements requiring balance on the balls of the feet. Floor performance refers to the movements done on the floor using primarily the legs, knees, and back. The dip is the fall, drop, or descent backward onto one's back with one's leg folded underneath. Mainstream dance forms popularized the dip, which is occasionally called the "death drop" when done in dramatics style. Due to popular media, the dip is sometimes incorrectly called the "5000", the "shablam", and the "shabam"; these misnomers stem from ballroom commentators chanting the word "shawam" when a voguer successfully completed a dip in time with the music while entertaining the audience.
Italics are included to highlight this definition of "death drop".

I'm curious about how the voguing death drop came about. Is the death drop an outgrowth of the Lindy Hoppers' fancy dipping dance movements? Click's_Lindy_Hoppers for information about the Jazz (Swing) dance groups that were known as "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers". That name was used by several groups of professional [African American] performing groups of Savoy Ballroom swing dancers. [Those groups were] started in 1935 by Herbert "Whitey" White. Lindy Hoppers under other names also performed professionally during the late 1930s and thereafter. Click for a film clip of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers in the late 1930s.

Also notice that the sentence following the one which is given in italics indicates that "mainstream dance forms" popularized the death drop. I wonder if that sentence means that the movements that are known as "death drops" in figure skating, salsa dancing, and swing dancing were modifications of the voguing death drop.



Example #1: Vogue: Dips & Drops [LGTB Ballroom]

Jay SetterUploaded on Apr 6, 2010

Jay R. Revlon Mix Conceited Ha
Here are two comments from that video's discussion thread:
silvermoonwolf19, 2011
"Someone give me the story. The death drop is something that requires alot of practice and conditioning, right? You can't just bust it out after watching, correct?"
Carlos Silva, 2011
in reply to silvermoonwolf19
"@silvermoonwolf19 yes it need alot of practice u just cant bust into a drop after watching this vid lol just start simple like having ur legs bend back like how they do it and have it get used to it u know stuff like that"

Example #2:
Laganja Estranja Death Drop at Toucans [Drag queen nightclub performance]

eyesofsaline, Published on Sep 23, 2013

Laganja Estranja is the stage name for a drag queen who was a contestant on Season 6 of the American television series RuPaul's Drag Race. Notice the two different types of death drops that Laganja performs.

"Werk!" ="Work!" (meaning that the person addressed is doing a great job)

Another contestant on two earlier seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, Shangela Laquifa Whatley broke two bones in her leg while performing the death drop on stage at a nightclub during a Halloween party. Previously, Shangela traveled widely teaching the death drop which she considers/ed her signature move. In 2011 Shangela was also was featured on the American television show Dance Moms teaching the death drop to those dance students. Here's a statement from Shangela's [DJ Pierce] statement about that injury:
"DJP: I was performing on stage at the Halloween event in New York City at Providence Nightclub. I was in the middle of a number, I did do a death drop, and I came down the wrong way -- my leg didn't go in the direction that it usually goes for the death drop. I don't know if my heel had gotten caught on the carpet of the stage or how that worked out, but anyhow, needless to say, it did break two bones in my lower right leg, the tibia and the fibula. They basically just snapped right there on stage. I've been doing the death drop for the last three years. I don't think it was the death drop itself that broke my leg. It was a death drop gone wrong that broke the leg."
Shangela reports that this injury resulted in over $100,000 in medical bills. This injury points out how dangerous doing death drips can be.

Example #3: Bring It!: Stand Battle: Dancing Dolls vs. YCDT Supastarz Part 1 (S1, E15) [Death Drop In Majorette/Dance Battle Stands

Lifetime Published on Aug 7, 2014
The Dancing Dolls start the battle with the stand "Stuntmaster" and the YCDT Supastarz respond with a stand called "Hush Puppy," in this video extra from Episode 14 (A New Rival Emerges) of Bring It! [American television program]
A very brief example of death drops occur at .25 of this video.

The YCDT [Young Contemporary Dance Theatre] Supastarz that are featured in the video given as Example #3 in this post ended their stand battle with the Dancing Dolls by performing a death drop routine that is the same or very similar to the MNW [Miami Northwestern] High School dance team's routine that is shown in that video. Unfortunately, Part II of this battle stands ends before it shows the Supastarz's death drop routine.

From comments that I've read online*, it appears that a number of the YCDT Supastarz attend MNW, and may be, or may have been members of that high school's dance team which is an auxiliary of that school's athletic teams.

I wonder if the "Hitch kick death drop is a new development of the death drop itself. If so, did this move originate with that Miami, Florida high school dance team?

*From "Re: BRING IT!! Season 2 Airs Tonight @ 9 The Dancing Dolls Are Back!"

Warning: Some comments in this discussion include profanity, explicit references, racialized statements and other content that I find problematic. For that reason, I'm not linking to it.

Example #4: 2012-2013 MNW Golden Girls "Hitch kick death drop" [high school dance team]

heatdiva, Published on Sep 22, 2012

08/24/12 death dropping at their 1st pep rally

Example #5: 2012-2013 MNW Golden Girls "Hitch kick death drop" [high school dance team]

heatdiva, Published on Oct 28, 2012

Ggirls death droppin & split walking at the MNW vs. Central game 10/27/12


Piece on Men's Short Program Elements - 1988 Calgary

3Axel1996, Uploaded on Oct 26, 2009

Calgary, Alberta, CANADA - 1988 Winter Games, Men's Short Program - Piece on Short Program Elements. Note Boitano's death drop. Perfect. Skaters these days don't have the flight and amplitude in the air to perform this move properly anymore. These days, it looks more like a flying camel-to-immediate-back sit spin.
From figure skating
"The difference between a death drop and a regular flying sit spin is the position of the skater in the air. Also, a skater takes off from one foot and lands on the other. In the death drop, the position is horizontal to the ice and the skater's body faces towards the ice for a short second. In a regular flying sit spin, the skater just does a traditional sit spin position in the air and lands on the take off foot. The positions in the air and the spins are really very different.
1988 Olympic Figure Skating Champion, Brian Boitano, did a spectacular death drop."
The voguing death drop and figure skating death drop don't appear to have anything in common but their names and the dangers associated with performing those movements.


How To Do the Death Drop in Advanced Salsa

TVLessonDotCom, Published on Jun 20, 2012

Advanced Salsa - How To Do the Death Drop in Advanced Salsa


Deathdrop walk through.MP4

David Berger Uploaded on Sep 3, 2010

This Video is an in class demonstration for ASU's Ballroom Latin Swing Classes of the Death Drop Dip. It can be performed in a variety of dances. Do not try this step without proper practice or instruction.
As I speculated earlier in this post, I wonder if the death drop in Salsa dancing and in Swing dancing are adaptations of the voguing death drop. Or was the voguing death drop an adaptation of the Swing dance or the Salsa dance movement?

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Kacper Pliżga.

      I'm glad you liked this post.

    2. The vogue "dip" showed up in the gay bars around 2000, 2001 in the midwest. Probably a few years earlier on the east coast. The "dip" is considered "new school" vogue. As "old school" vogue did not include the dip duckwalk or any of the "new school" moves. Old school vogue did not include the fluid "cunty" floor work either. All of a sudden new school showed up in the gay bar and took over as the main form of vogue. There was a video of a guy from one of the eastcoast houses that was credited as the inventor of the dip.The gay ball community credits him as such. It was a youtube video try a search.

    3. Unknown, thanks for sharing that information.

      If I find the video of the guy who is credited as the inventor of the dip, I'll post it. Meanwhile, if you or anyone else reading this knows his name and the title of that video, I'd appreciate that info being added to these comments.

    4. Hi Azizi, the dip has actually always been a part of the vogue dance but has changed with every category. it was more rigid and posey as part of Old Way, but as part of Voge Fem it became more fluid. The straight to the floor execution was actually popularised in the early 90s by Ashley Icon, and then Niambi Prodigy after her. The floorwork was also part of vogue- the current style of vogue, referred to as Vogue Fem is named so as it was the extremely feminine way the trans women began performing the dance.

    5. Hello, Ashley B.

      Thanks for sharing that information with me and with other pancocojams readers.

      It's important to document the history of voguing and other parts of the history of drag cultures in the USA.

      As a straight woman I acknowledge and celebrate these creative cultural ontributions.