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© 2019 by The Curious Uptowner

"Pose" and its Harlem roots, past and present

June 4, 2018

 

Ryan Murphy's groundbreaking TV series "Pose" premiered on FX last night, and the 8-episode show takes a deep, empathetic, dance-filled dive into New York's 1980s ball culture, juxtaposing it with Trump-era excess (think "RuPaul's Drag Race" meets "Wall Street").

 

In the pilot, a trans character named Blanca sets up her own drag "house" to compete in the wild balls where extravagant outfits and voguing are the main draw. She invites a young, gay African American dancer banished from his parents' house, a sweet trans prostitute, and other struggling LGBTQ youth to join her, and we begin to follow their lives both inside and outside of the pageant-like balls.

 

 

Murphy was originally inspired by "Paris Is Burning," the legendary 1991 documentary about the black and Latin LGBTQ communities that took part in the drag ball scene. In the movie, many of the actual ball scenes were filmed in Harlem at what was then known as the Imperial Lodge of Elks on West 129th Street (today it's the Faith Mission Christian Fellowship Church).

 

Three decades later, the production team behind "Pose" "struggled to capture the grittiness of New York in the eighties and had to research far into the outer boroughs to find locations that looked authentically ungentrified," according to Vogue.

 

 

But they must have found some of what they were looking for back in Harlem, because the TV show's army of trucks were spotted throughout the neighborhood this winter and spring, including on 135th Street near Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and between 141st and 145th Streets near Amsterdam Avenue.

 

 

It'll be fun watching the full season of "Pose" and hopefully sneaking glimpses of Harlem, past and present. In the meantime, here's a flashback to a transformed Hamilton Heights when the "Pose" team shot there in April.

 

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