“Ninjas hit hard. They hit fast. An invisible assassin. And that’s what we are. We come out to assassinate.”
-Willi Ninja from Paris is Burning (1990)
Before Madonna’s “Vogue”, there was Willi Ninja’s vogue. Born in 1961 in upstate New York, Willi was a legendary NYC-based dancer and choreographer who was better known as the godfather of voguing, a style of dance developed in the 1980s Harlem ball scene. Prominently featured in the 1990 ball/drag culture documentary Paris is Burning, Ninja was known for his impossibly elastic and elegant voguing poses, which glamorized and exaggerated the shapes, lines, curves, and contortions of high fashion models. Willi was the Mother of the House of Ninja, a highly influential House within the ball scene that still thrives today. Willi died of AIDS-related heart failure in 2006, but his vibrant cultural legacy and truly unique style live on, mystifying modern ball scenes and dance forms throughout the world.
Ben Aqua is a multidisciplinary artist based in Austin, Texas. Born in Brooklyn, New York, his visual work has been exhibited internationally and published in Rolling Stone, NPR, NYLON, SPIN, NME, Flaunt, Bloomberg Businessweek, OUT, ARKITIP, XLR8R, Beautiful/Decay, Rhizome, Hi-Fructose, JOGGING and Fecal Face. His music has been featured by Interview, The Creators Project, Mad Decent, DFA, VICE, Dummy Mag, FACT, Modular, URB, BUTT and Opening Ceremony. He also runs the experimental art & music label #FEELINGS. www.benaqua.org