The Rebirth of Waacking/Punking: Naomi Interviews Princess Lockeroo
New York City – August 21, 2013
The improvisation-based dance styles waacking and punking developed in gay underground disco clubs of early 1970’s Los Angeles and were broadcast nationwide on Soul Train, the first black music and dance program and longest running show in TV history.
With almost all male progenitors passing during the early AIDS crisis, the dance culture was reborn in the 2000s into the competition-based global street dance arena. While vogue maintains a primary association with the LGBTQ-identified Ballroom World, contemporary punking and waacking are most widely practiced outside the United States, in the more generally straight-identified hip hop/street dance scene.
Waacking and punking are sometimes used interchangeably, although the traditions are becoming more distinct as first generation dancers take charge of the culture’s development. In the 1970s, when Soul Train dancer Tyrone Proctor taught dancers outside the gay community, he used the term waacking. Soul Train dancer Jeffrey Daniel invented the unique spelling with two A’s. Waacking often describes fast, rhythmic arm whipping that is a defining characteristic of the style, while punkin’ tends to focus on experimental movement behavior that incorporates elements of large locomotion, posing, melodramatic gesture, facial expression, and narrative. Innovators drew inspiration from the moving images of Hollywood silent films and glamour stars, prompting early references to the style as “Garbo.”
This interview with new generation waacker Princess Lockeroo accompanies the article Techniques of Black Male Re/Dress, published in the May 2014 Women & Performance special issue: “All Hail The Queenz: a queer feminist recalibration of hip hop scholarship.” In the article I explore a statement I have heard from many practitioners: “waacking taught me how to be a woman.” I argue that the ideas of woman, feminine and female that (widely nonblack and cisgender female) dancers are accessing and experiencing through the practices of punking and waacking, are made possible through the production of black masculinity, in the history and afterlife of slavery.