The Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport hosted a free sports-themed kiki ball on February 7, featuring several competitions where prizes could be won. The kiki scene emerged in the Black and Latino LGBTQ+ communities in 1920’s New York City, and the balls themselves feature individuals who compete before a panel of judges in various categories. The event was hosted by the U of T Sport & Rec division in partnership with the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance.
The main gymnasium was turned into a celebration of a queer subculture, with loud music serenading the entire fieldhouse while all the attendants gathered around a runway. The ball featured vogue dancing — which inspired Madonna’s 1990 music video “Vogue” — and runway competitions. The first was the “Virgin Runway,” in which U of T students, who made up the majority of the competitors, were required to wear blue clothing. Contestants all walked one by one, and then in pairs, until there was only one competitor remaining.
There was also the “On the Jumbotron” event, in which contestants wore sports jerseys and served looks down the runway. People of all ages joined in, sporting the jerseys of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Phillip Dorsett, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Toronto Blue Jays. This was followed by the “Best Courtside Look” category, which involved some of the most memorable looks of the evening, as contestants aimed to emulate the outfits that their favourite celebrities have donned at the courtside of NBA games. “Referee” was also a memorable category, where a handful of contestants were required to wear black-and-white stripes.
“We’re trying to engage students and the community in physical activity that maybe there’s not as much opportunity for, [students] that maybe don’t feel as safe in our spaces with the traditional physical activity that we offer,” said Robin Waley, Assistant Manager of Co-Curricular Diversity & Equity at U of T’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “So we try to reach these underserved communities and provide access to programs. Voguing is a really important form of physical activity, style of dance, culture for the Black and brown queer community.”
Kiki ball culture has been an important source of community and culture to queer people of colour, mainly occurring in nightlife scenes. When asked about the importance of these types of events on campus, Waley said, “The campus is not accessible. Let’s be real. We have a lot of work to do as a university, and if we work together, we can accomplish creating opportunities within equity, diversity, and inclusion for everybody, which is the work that we still need to do.” He said that the university still has a lot to do, but with events like this one they hope to create more equitable spaces on campus.
Before the event, there was a vogue workshop, where beginners could attend and learn the dance style. “I like seeing students here that come to the vogue classes and they’ve never done this before and their friends are here to support them,” said diversity and movement intern Sandakie Ekanayake to The Varsity. “And that’s really great to see.”
“Having this in this building is a big step forward to queering heteronormative space,” Ekanayake concluded.