Ballroom Interlude

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House of Jourdan flyer with categories, 1999, courtesy House Ballroom Scene Collection, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. 

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Fire Ball runways in 1995 and 1998, courtesy James Credle VHS collection, Queer Newark Oral History Project.

Chapter 6 is titled “Ballroom Interlude.” Compiled by the Queer Newark Oral History Project, this chapter highlights the famed ballroom scene in Newark, first showing the major role Newark has played in academic studies of ballroom and then tracing the scene’s history from gender-nonconforming performers at gay-friendly bars in the 1950s through the formation of houses in the 1980s and to the present, as Newark still has a vibrant ballroom scene.


The chapter identifies the 1980s as a turning point in the Newark ballroom scene, when the emergence of houses led to the centralization and organization of the scene. It includes a program from an event held by the House of Jourdan, contextualized by the memories shared by house mother Bernard McAllister in an oral history interview.


The chapter also builds on the theme of AIDS activism introduced by Chenesky in Chapter 5, including excerpts from an oral history interview with James Credle, in which he describes the Fire Ball, the Project Fire program that brought AIDS education to the ballroom, and images from Fire Ball events, which provide a rare visual glimpse into 1990s ballrooms.