The Alexander Ball: The extravagant showcase that empowers people of color in Brisbane’s LGBT community

It’s called the ballroom, but there is no waltz or foxtrot.

Rather, the well-worn stage at Tivoli, in the heart of Brisbane’s nightclub district, is graced by artists dressed in elaborate, genre-defying costumes as they battle for trophies, cash prizes and, most importantly, status. .

With each category that passes the energy of the crowd increases.

Instead of applauding, spectators click their fingers to show their appreciation to the performers in dramatic costumes who twirl and pose during the podium category.

There are cries of shock and joy when a competitor in the best dressed category delivers a scathing comment about his opponent’s outfit.

The best dressed category, filled with drama, was a highlight of the evening.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

The electric atmosphere rises to the last category: the breathtaking “vogue femme” dance style – for which there is a prize of $ 1,000.

At the climax of the dramatic final battle, the two dancers throw themselves to the ground in a movement called a plunge, then collapse into each other, catching their breath as the judges decide their fate.

Then it’s over, and around midnight, the attention of the excited crowd falls on Ella Alexander, who walks down to the floor to wrap up the night of fashion, performance and celebration known as Alexander. Ball.

As she comes to the end of her speech, she asks, “Can I have all the trans women of color on stage?” “

It’s a question one would expect without much answer in any other scene, but in this room the answer is thunderous, and soon the stage is full.

Ella Alexander holds the microphone above her head as she stands center stage in a red dress.
Ella Alexander takes the stage to conclude the evening.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

Ballroom is a subculture created by black and Latin trans women in the 1950s in response to the racism and transphobia of drag competitions.

The events have since become a haven for LGBT people of color across the world, including Brisbane since 2019.

The Alexander Ball is a showcase of what many artists of the Brisbane ballroom scene have been working on for months.

It’s a celebration of the strong community of LGBT people of color that has been forged in the city’s outlying suburbs over the years.

“100% absolutely accepted. For everything’

Ella Alexander walks on stage in a red dress.
Joshua Alexander (left) comments while Ella Alexander (center) performs on stage at the ball.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee )

At the head of this community are Ella Alexander and Joshua Alexander, the “parents of the house” of Brisbane’s pioneer ballroom, the House of Alexander.

The houses in the ballroom are like teams, mimicking a family structure where the “siblings” of the house are watched over by their “parents”.

To signify membership, household members adopt the name of the household as their last name.

House of Alexander rehearsals take place in various locations in the Brisbane suburbs.

A house in Darra is close enough to the Ipswich motorway that the roar of cars dominated the conversation, but as the Alexander’s start to heat up, soon even the sound of traffic has to fight to be heard over the beats. high-energy electric ballroom tracks.

A bearded Alexander gets makeup done by another artist.
Joshua Alexander gets makeup done by another Alexander backstage.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

Alexander’s father of the house, Joshua Alexander, makes sure his family has food on the way and is settled in before rehearsals start.

The tension is released from him as soon as he begins to move, merging into the haunting movements of vogue femme, a dance style characterized by exaggerated female movements that combine elements of ballet, jazz, street styles. like hip-hop and modern dance.

Vogue femme has five components, including the performance of the hands, where the dancers are encouraged to weave a story with their hand movements; the podium, where the dancers use the sway of their hips to accentuate their femininity; and the most dramatic of the five, the spins and dips, where the dancers spin around the stage and then fall to the floor.

Joshua performs the five with grace.

A man is lying on the stage with his leg in the air.
Joshua Alexander performs a dive on stage.(Brooklyn Gillespie)

What makes the ballroom so important to him is the safe space it provides for LGBT people of color.

“People who come from the community, they see themselves in us. Even if it’s the smallest piece, it’s enough to grow a small seed in a big tree,” he said.

“You can come in and just realize you want to transition. I’ve met people who have transitioned and then de-transitioned. There’s no worry in the ballroom about that. You are. authorized to do so.

“It also creates awareness for the queer white community who want to come and educate themselves. We have everyone cheering us on.

“It’s crazy to be a First Nations man in the ballroom community and for once to feel absolutely 100% accepted. For everything.”

Performers in extravagant costumes gather on stage.  Joshua Alexander lifts the microphine above his head.
Joshua stands on stage with Indigenous members of the ballroom community at the Alexander Ball.(Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

“Brisbane now has a full-fledged ballroom scene”

Neesha Alexander is one of the female queens of House of Alexander – the prom term for trans women.

She’s also the evening DJ of the Alexander Ball, performing in a stunning floral dress as she works the decks.

Neesha Alexander takes center stage in a peach-colored floral dress and hat.
Neesha Alexander is DJ for the night at the Alexander Ball.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

She remembers the first time she met Joshua Alexander.

“We lived in the same suburb, Inala, and he saw me walking down the street, sailing.

“He told me he also liked voguing and hoped for a ball scene here in Brisbane.

Vogue Ball interpreter Neesha Alexander, one of the feminist queens of the House of Alexander
Neesha Alexander says the event is exciting.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

Fast forward a few years later, Brisbane now has a full-fledged ballroom scene.

“Some people asked: Where does Alexander’s house come from? We have always been there. You just don’t see us. “

For her, one thing that makes the ballroom important is giving not only visibility but also protection to trans women.

“In the outside world, a trans woman would die and people get rid of her.

“In the ballroom, everyone’s name lives on forever.”

A bikini-clad performer flees from the stage holding a trophy in the golden light.  A man in the background is holding a microphone.
The winner of the last category of the Alexander Ball claims her trophy.(Provided: Brooklyn Gillespie / Framesbybee)

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