LGBT house and ball culture

REACH LA (Realistic Education in Action Coalition to Foster Health) is a youth-driven organization serving African-American and Latino gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who are struggling with issues that prevent them from fully engaging in a larger community.  Lacking a safety net of supportive family, schools, churches, or community organizations, a nationwide network of house and ball communities was established in the late 1980’s and 90’s.  In Los Angeles alone there are 17 “houses” which provide a safe support system for transgender youth of color who are exploring their sexuality and identity.  A main activity of each house is to compete in local “ball” events, where members are recognized for dance, modeling, and fashion artistry.

In 2014 and 2013, REACH LA received a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program to support the artistic projects orginating from R-LA Studios, which provides free, year-round space to the Los Angeles house and ball community.  The dance studio, dedicated exclusively to the community, is used for classes, rehearsals, house meetings and practices, choreographers to create and set new work, individual artists from the community to book private studio time, and for West Coast Ballroom Alliance meetings.  R-LA Studios is the only dance studio in Los Angeles that provides a free, safe, professionally-designed 1,000 square foot space, and organizational support for members of the house and ball community.

In 2010, REACH LA received a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program to support a documentation project designed to transfer collective knowledge and traditions about the West Coast Ballroom community to the next generation.  The founders will collaborate with REACH LA to document the history of the West Coast Ball community.  The project includes: the development of a written history, with timeline and biographies of key culture bearers; the preservation and documentation of the history through the development of a digital archive of existing video footage, photos, and print materials from past West Coast Balls; the dissemination of the information to the community during the 2010 LA Black Pride Week and at the 20 West Coast Legends Ball; and the promotion of the project as part of the marketing activities for the Ovahness Ball 5.

REACH LA received a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program in 2009 to support their annual competition/performance, the Ovahness Ball.  The project also included a series youth workshops on the history, artistry, and cultural legacy of the house and ball community, in an effort to develop a knowledge-base and appreciation of their history in order to pass on this legacy from one generation to the next.


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