Three ways to slay: An homage to DJ Vjuan Allure - Features - Mixmag

Three ways to slay: An homage to DJ Vjuan Allure

Ricky Tucker and Jay Jay Revlon pay tribute to the impactful legacy of ballroom icon Vjuan Allure

  • Words: Ricky Tucker | Mix: Jay Jay Revlon | Photography: Demetrius Williams | Usual Suspects Photography LLC
  • 13 May 2022

Ballroom icon Vjuan Allure died on March 15, 2021. To commemorate his legacy, author Ricky Tucker has penned an homage to the late pioneer, and DJ Jay Jay Revlon has made a tribute mix featuring Vjuan tracks and interview excerpts. Read and listen below

As a friend of, family member to, and residential writer for New York’s Ballroom Community, I’m privy to some incredible and legendary conversations. I am privileged. And well-aware.

But certain legends and icons come up across almost all of my conversations with Ballroom folks, like the late Hector Xtravaganza, who–nevermind which dynasty people belonged to–nurtured and adopted the community on such a grand scale that everyone became cousins. Or the late Arbert Santana Evisu, who was so dedicated to mothering and documenting Ball Culture, his maternal philosophy and oral histories will reverberate infinitely, transcending this life, era, and realm.

On this day, however, roughly a year after his passing, I’d like to turn your attention to premier Ballroom producer, DJ Vjuan Allure.

Known initially for his breakthrough production work in the greater DC area, Vjuan Allure’s influence would shatter musical norms, invading the hearts, minds, voguing bodies, and personal lives of diverse communities across the globe.

Vjuan had the gift of interpretation. He reimagined and remixed classic tracks like 'Ha Dance', and 'To Be Real', to fit the fierce needs of legendary vogue fem competitors, honoring their past and propelling them into the future. He was a producer for the people and a divine DJ who was a magnanimous pastor to his pulpit. Vjuan’s agility in both arenas sparked joy on the dancefloor, innovation in vogue dance forms, fear in his competitors, and infinite inspiration in his friends and predecessors.

For the book, And the Category Is…: Inside New York’s Vogue, House, and Ballroom Community, I spoke at length with Vjuan Allure’s friend and musical mentee, DJ MikeQ. He reflected on the fateful moment when he stepped into a club in New Jersey and was flooded by the sounds of Vjuan’s allure. He remembered and detailed fondly his first encounters with Vjuan, and more specifically, the hypnotic whispers of his name...

MikeQ on Vjuan’s influence:

“I was hearing songs like the 'Din Dada', 'Satisfaction', and 'Make These Bitches Gag' by DJ Vjuan Allure. I didn’t know who Vjuan was at the time, and the track actually said his name in it. I didn’t even know what they were saying, it seemed like some other kind of language to me. I’d never heard a name like that. Vjuan. Only to find out how special he’d be to me and the entire community.”

Special. Singular. Lovely. Legendary. These are the words many Ballroom folks use to describe Vjuan in both his production work and his everyday interactions within the community. I also spoke with Ball nightlife promoter and king of the category known as “Bizarre”, my friend Lee Soulja, specifically about DJ Vjaun Allure’s legacy, and he remembers Vjuan as a cutting-edge triple threat, or as he put it: “Offering three ways to slay”, spinning, producing, and voguing. An almost divine level of virtuosity. That rare and holy trinity.

Lee Soulja on meeting Vjuan:

Vaughn was my little brother. I met him in DC around 2005, during Black Pride in DC, dancing on the dancefloor. He was vogueing, doing it, but I didn't know who he was. And Vjuan was a thick, big boy and was moving and battling all the kids on the floor—I got my life.”

It seems that with everything Vjuan created — his tracks, DJ sets, and his embodiment of Ballroom via vogue — he both elevated and defied traditional standards. Voguers are traditionally lean, lanky, and limber (ala Willi Ninja), and Vjuan, a thick and curvy guy, set aside those norms and leaned into his body and his joy, catching 10s across the board on the dancefloor, and nabbing trophies in the hearts and minds of the community for his lovingly postmodernist rearrangements of house and disco classics.

But outside of being surprised by Vjuan Allure’s extracurricular voguing chops, Lee Soulja left that first night impressed by Vjuan’s alluring production work, and like MikeQ, was drawn in by Vjuan’s industrious-if-not-haunting, in-track use of his own name.

Lee Soulja:

“…DJ Sedrick was playing at the time. We call him, “the District House Mother”, famous in the Ballroom community, and he kept playing these tracks, these little numbers where the voiceovers kept sounding like they were saying, ‘Ivanna Allure?’ So, I went up to Cedric. “These beats are great! Who is this Ivanna Allure—she must be fierce!” Cedric said, “She sure must be!” I still didn't make the connection, that it was Vjuan [not Ivanna].”

As legend has it, shortly after meeting him on that fateful night, Lee Soulja and Vjuan Allure became fast friends, and Lee made it his mission to help Vjuan expand his already burgeoning music empire from DC mainstays to the NYC mainstage. Lee would then recommend Vjuan Allure to New York club promoters as the premier Ballroom DJ for events and would later go on to book him in New York for various functions, including Lee’s own NYC Black Pride.

Eventually Allure’s reach would expand globally, and when it did, he wouldn’t just arrive, he showed up and out, blowing everyone’s minds with a slew of signature, remixed and reinvigorated interpretations of house classics, tré vogue-able, bespoke tracks geared towards bolstering legends who walked face and vogue fem, like Octavia St. Laurent and Brenda Holder during their legendary performances. He spoke directly to the girls, and so, to the community. He brought to life their music sensibilities. He listened to their needs, heard their voices, watched them vogue, and spoke their names. The rest is history…

At the end of our interview, I asked Lee to try to encapsulate Allure’s legacy. This is what he said.

Lee Soulja on Vjuan’s legacy:

“Vjuan updated the sound of Ballroom, which is based on a lot of tradition. Songs that are played for the categories, like 'To Be Real', and 'Love Is the Message' are records that have been played since the seventies. Vjuan remixed all of that. Your Diana Ross songs that the girls always used to walk face—Vjuan had remixes for all of that. So, he kept the tradition of playing those songs—but he was also giving them new life, a breath of fresh air, and he's passed that kind of music on to your MikeQs, and Luckys, and Angel Xs—all of them. The new generation of Ballroom DJs today are a subset of Vjuan. He taught them and helped raise them. Those are all Vaughn's children.”

Thank you, DJ Vjuan Allure. We speak your name.

Vjuan Allure: An Icon Tribute (mixed by Jay Jay Revlon)

London ballroom staple Jay Jay Revlon has created a mix paying tribute to Vjaun Allure. Built entirely from Vjuan's track and excerpts from an in-depth interview he gave to Nordic ballroom figures Samuli Emery and Paula Vuorela in the summer of 2020, it's a rich and impactful listen, packed full of hard-hitting sounds and inspiring knowledge.

Jay Jay Revlon: "I wanted to do justice to such a deep interview, filled with so much information from a man who touched and blessed many, and was overall gummy bear short, sweet and a joy. There has been features and tributes to so many DJs and artists, and I feel Vjuan hasn't got it which is crazy, so when the interviewer asked me I just had to try and make something big for Vjuan: as loud as life like him. The mix is all Vjuan Allure orignals he gave to me after we first met at my ball in Shoreditch . He not only he blessed us with a set, but blessed me with music, so here it is with little nods of wise wisdom."

Samuli Emery and Paula Vuorela: "In summer 2020 two actives from the Nordic ballroom scene, Samuli Emery and Paula Vuorela, began organising online ballroom talks for their local communities to fill the void that the global pandemic had left the ballroom scene with. They invited established and influential ballroom personas from around the world for online conversations, aiming to educate and inspire the Nordic ballroom community.

"The final online conversation of the summer had the Iconic DJ Vjuan Allure as its distinguished guest. Vjuan Allure was selected as a guest for this conversation due to his remarkable achievements and impact as a producer and DJ, his vast knowledge about the global ballroom communities and their histories and his inspiring presence. Known worldwide as a staple of ballroom music and as a beloved member of the community, he was the perfect person to invite for an online exchange with the rapidly growing Nordic ballroom scene.

"The conversation, spanning over two hours, touches on various topics including Allure's personal journey in the ballroom community, different ballroom houses he is affiliated with, the work of the DJ, the history of ballroom music, among many other topics. The questions were collected in advance from the participants and in the end there was also a moment for an open conversation and Q&A with the Icon himself."

Ricky Tucker is a writer, activist and author of And the Category Is...Inside New York’s Vogue/House/Ballroom Community, follow him Instagram

Jay Jay Revlon is a DJ, dancer and staple of London's ballroom scene, follow Jay Jay on Instagram

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