A Vogue Legend, Still Enlarging Circles of Pleasure

Archie Burnett, dancer, teacher and a grandfather of the House of Ninja, has a show at Jacob’s Pillow. With his cast, “it’s like a family love affair.”

When Archie Burnett walks onto a dance floor, he tends to take it over.

That’s partly because he’s a big guy, 6 foot 4 and full of muscle. Especially in the 1980s and ’90s, when he was a mainstay of New York City’s underground clubs, his body was, as he recently put it, “banging.”

A body like that commands attention, but any chance of fading into the background truly disappears when he starts to move. Then he’s a kaleidoscope of long lines and sharp angles. Every moment, he’s ready for a camera to click; every moment, he’s on beat.

His dancing is also knowledge in action. Vogue and waacking, resurgent in popular culture, may be new to some, but not to Burnett. He’s a grandfather of the House of Ninja, a collective of dancers instrumental in the spread of vogueing from ballrooms to videos and fashion shows in the ’80s and ’90s. With Tyrone Proctor, a pioneer of waacking who happened to be Burnett’s brother-in-law, he helped revive that style of flamboyant, air-slicing improvisation, developed in Los Angeles gay clubs in the 1970s. House dance is home territory, too.

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