What is Waacking? What is Voguing?

Dance Culture

What is Waacking? What is Voguing?

Charise Roberts
April 30, 2020
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Waacking and Voguing may share some similarities, but they are two distinct styles with their own stories of origin.

If you want to learn more about Waacking and Voguing, then keep reading!

History of Waacking

Waacking started inthe 1970's in Los Angeles' gay clubs, where poor black, Latino, and Asian gay men, who had to hide their gay identity in public, were able to find freedom in expressing themselves to funk music and escape society’s condemnation of their homosexuality.

Before it was coined as "Waacking,” it was called “punking.

The punks aimed to transform the derogatory term for gay people as “punks” to a positive action of “punking” the music.

"Punking means to make something your b*tch. Instead of being defeated by a person or thing or situation, punking is how we flipped the script to make own it."

– Viktor Manoel

waacking and voguing

Punking is the root of Waacking.

It was influenced by the dramatic acting in Hollywood’s 1950s silent films and Looney Toons cartoons.

The arm rolls that originate in the shoulder, elbow, then wrist and travels over the head and back down to one’s side were inspired by martial arts and the use of nunchucks. (Viktor Manoel)

The original Punks, Arthur, Tinker, and Andrew were dancers on Soul Train. They helped popularize Punking and Waacking throughout the country.

However, due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980's, most of the original punks passed away or were murdered, leaving only Viktor Manoel as the last original Punk and causing Punking to fade from the mainstream in the 1980's and 1990's.

The catalyst of the resurgence of Waacking was Brian Green, who began to teach Waacking in 2003 to provoke Waacking elders to start sharing with the new generation of Waackers we have today.

Although Waacking is now often seen choreography, its original contexts were freestyle jams and battles. It’s also common to see women doing these fem styles.

However, both Waacking and voguing were created by gay men and transwomen in underground clubs and ballroom scenes.

The core values of Waacking include celebrating individuality, self-expression, freedom, storytelling, and drama.

What is the whack/waack?

The basic “Whack” (original spelling) is an arm movement that creates the striking motion. Literally, like you're hitting or whack-ing something.

“Waacking” came about when the straight community fell in love with the dance but didn’t want to associate themselves with the term “punking.”

The “Waack” begins with your wrist relaxed, fingers facing the floor, elbow parallel with your shoulder, placed at your collarbone, which is then brought up over your head to touch the back of your shoulder with your palm facing out.

Then it comes back over your head, flipping the wrist back to its initial position to twist it in front of you to lay out your arm straight, palm facing out.

Aside from the Whack itself, Waacking technique includes hair brushes, punking, extensions, posing, and footwork.

In all the movements, there is a strong emphasis on musicality and interpretation of its rhythm.

If you want to learn the Waacking/Whacking style, take Lorena Valenzuela's Beginner Whacking Program !

She teaches all the essentials of Whacking/Waacking for beginners. Click this flyer to start learning:

whacking moves

History of Voguing

Voguing was created in Rikers Island Prison where inmates would copy the poses from Vogue magazines and battle each other.

One of these inmates named Paris Dupree brought Voguing to the Harlem, New York LGBTQ Ballroom scene in the 1970's & 1980's.

waacking and voguing

The ballroom scene became an important refuge for both gay and trans youth.

As a result of turning away from or being disowned by their own families, they formed houses with a “mother” and/or a “father” as its leaders.

Mothers and fathers are role models to their “children” in the house and provide guidance and advice even beyond the ballroom context.

Mothers are drag queens, or better referred to as femme queens or transsexuals, while fathers are butch queens.

In simpler terms, mothers have “vaginas,” while the fathers don’t.

Most houses have “specialities” and a certain reputation, and members are invited to join by mothers and/or fathers.

But those who haven’t found a house that suits them are called free agents or 007s.

Houses are not teams, but families  – which is a deeper commitment and makes it harder to quit.

These houses and free agents compete at balls for money or for glory against other houses.

The battle form is “ballroom style” where both competitors dance at the same time, but before battling another dancer, one must receive their “10s” or get chopped by the judges as the preliminary measure.

The Vogue performance categories include: hand performance, old way, new way, and Vogue femme, which is even sometimes divided into “soft and cunt” vs dramatics.

There are five elements of Voguing: hand performance, cat walks, duck walks, floor performance, and dips and spins.

Hand performance includes any circular, figure eight, and wave movements with your fingers, wrists, elbows, and arms.

Interestingly, “death drop” and “shablam” are not considered terminology within the ballroom culture.

Whether it is a dramatic one from a jump or one slowly easing into the floor, it’s still considered a dip.

Aside from dancing itself, these balls have certain categories that remain within the sphere of vogue including runway, bizarre, realness, body, face, costume design, and many others depending on the ball and the house host.

The ball also includes a highly regarded MC who chants over the beats with repetitive commands and directions for the rounds.

When a round comes near it’s end, the MC will chant “1001, 1, 2002, 2, 3003, now hold that pose for me,” where the dancer will hold a pose to finish off their round.

Now, the core of ballroom culture is the house music spun by ballroom DJs, who know what to play for every category and loop these ballroom beats.

The music is a specific genre of house music full of attitude and punctuated hits. (But this doesn't make it House Dance. Read about that here: What Is House Dance?)

The Voguing culture has its own lingo and “gay slang.”

Words often heard in the music and the vocabulary include “cunt,” “pussy,” and “bitch,” but these words are not used with derogatory intent but as terms of endearment.

Although Vogue was popularized in the mainstream by Madonna’s Vogue, Jody Watley was the first artist to feature Voguing in her music videos like Still A Thrill.

Although it rarely peppers mainstream media, Vogue continues to thrive in the underground ballroom scenes around the world.

A great resource to learn more about Voguing’s history more is a documentary called Paris is Burning.

Waacking and Voguing similarities

Both styles exude a sense of power and superiority.

Waacking and Voguing began to resemble each other once one of the founders of Waacking, Tyrone Proctor, moved to New York and joined the crew, Breed of Motion.

Breed of Motion with other renowned Waackers and Voguers like Archie Burnett and Willi Ninja.


Archie Burnett


Willi Ninja, photo from


Technical similarities and differences between Waacking and Voguing

Waacking’s movement quality mirrors the music with a groovy movement quality paired with its jazzy dramatic silent movie flow.

In contrast, Voguing tends to be more pedestrian with different types of walks due to its relation to runway and have more variations in intensity.

Both styles utilize posing, but the flows and shapes are a bit different.

Waacking uses poses as breaks in movement that can either be a full intense stop or a one that oozes with drama.

Voguing can use poses in the same way, but they tend to be executed one after each other to the syncopated beats in the music as if posing for pictures.

Also, Vogue dancers try to take awkward shapes and use their flexibility to make it beautiful. Most significantly, details of their foundational techniques are different.

Waacking has its iconic “waack” and Voguing has its variations of hand performances.

waacking and voguing

The Waackers

Cultural contexts of Waacking and Voguing

Though decades have passed since their inception, the technique and cultural context of Waacking and Voguing have been preserved by their communities.

Further, dancers have experimented the styles with different types of music, and adding their personal flairs.

Examples include waacking to hip hop beats or to a live jazz band or battling with Vogue against a turfer to his/her music.

It's cool to experiment with styles, since dance is all about the freedom to be yourself.

But, in order to be a responsible dancer, you should learn their cultural and historical contexts, as well as the proper technique to build off of.

Editor's Note: Facts in the article were researched by author. Additional information came from Editor's interviews with Viktor Manoel. Thank you for all your help and insight!