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Other shows may make a 'mockery' of vogue. 'Legendary' sought LA ballroom's blessing

Angie Orellana Hernandez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — For producers David Collins and Rob Eric, the seed for HBO's "Legendary" was planted long before the reality competition series got off the ground — when they were invited to a West Hollywood ball, an event where voguing contestants in elaborate costumes "walk," or compete, in themed categories.

"That was a pretty small ball on a Saturday night," Collins recalled. "But [it] ended up being one of those moments where you're like, 'Wow, the joy and celebration of the ballroom community and getting to be an audience member was nothing short of absolute joy.

"It was from there that we realized this is an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the ballroom community that for so long has been marginalized and not seen for all the glory that they are."

"Legendary" not only places the community front and center. It has also, in its way, sought its blessing: Before production began, Collins and Eric convened a meeting in 2018 with house mothers and fathers of the LA ballroom scene in an office behind La Brea Bakery. (Houses are subgroups within ballroom, whose leader, often a reputable member of the community, is dubbed the father or mother.)

The culture emerged in New York in the 20th century as a safe space for queer and transgender Black and Latinx people who found their chosen families in the community amid exile from their biological roots. Characterized by its voguing dance moves — whose five elements include duckwalk, catwalk, hands, floor performance, and spins and dips — and statement fashion, ballroom upturns the traditional notion of gender performance.

Featured in the 1990 documentary "Paris is Burning," FX's "Pose" and now "Legendary," whose second season is streaming on HBO Max, the ballroom community is making strides toward more mainstream recognition. While Collins and Eric, both East Coasters, were familiar with ballroom, the experience in LA showed them something different.

 

"The common thought is that 'Oh, ballroom is a very New York thing. And when we went to this ball, it just proved what we've known for a long time — ballroom is everywhere," Eric said.

Father Trey of the House of St. Laurent helped huddle most of the LA houses — some of which have been cast in "Legendary" — together for the 2018 meeting with Collins and Eric. With help from members of the local ballroom scene, Scout Productions, the production company Collins and Eric are a part of, filmed the sizzle reel for "Legendary."

And while season one, which premiered last year, was filmed in Stamford, Connecticut, season two returns the show to its LA roots.

The decision to film the season in LA was partly made to adhere to COVID-19 health and safety protocols , which meant finding a large stage and creating a "safe and secure bubble" for cast and crew. But it also meant bringing ballroom to Hollywood, a symbolic journey felt by many.

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