epa-efeMexico City

A decade ago, the vogue dancing scene was unknown in Mexico, but it has become a true cultural phenomenon spreading bonds of support among members of the country's LGTB community.

With powerful catwalk-style poses, rapid hand movements and dramatic backflips, Mexican vogue dancers challenge stereotypes, dispel prejudice and make the most of the femininity of the human form.

The highly stylized genre, which evolved from ballroom dancing, consists of participants competing on stage, an MC who introduces the show and a team of judges who rate the performances.

Arturo Leija, a dancer who runs a ballroom in downtown Mexico City, tells EFE that vogue practitioners form groups called houses, led by a "father" or "mother" who provides them with moral and sometimes economic support.

"A house is a group of people, I would like to say friends, but beyond that, it's like a family you choose, people who you connect with," he says.

The group led by the 24-year-old Leija, The Royal House of Milan, has paid for members to travel abroad for competitions.

The influence that these houses have in the expansion of vogue is reflected in the growing number of participants in events, where dancers challenge members of other houses for top honors in categories including most-beautiful face, best costume, outstanding physique and boldest dance steps.

Arturo attributes the increasing popularity of vogue, whose origins go back to New York in the 1980s, to wider exposure via high-profile artists and television.

"It has evolved a lot. There are already many scenes, they brought international instructors, there are already a lot of people who do not belong to any house and come to dance, there are a lot of people teaching it, both as a style and as a culture," Leija says.

Another dancer who has seen the phenomenon evolve is Anuar Alvarado, better known as "Any Funk," one of the pioneers who brought the style to Mexico from New York.

Alvarado, a member of the jury for the event organized by Leija, founded one of the first houses in Mexico, House of Machos, more than five years ago, when voguing was still largely unknown in the country.

"We all had something in common, and not only the LGBT topic. Heterosexual people, women, men also lived with us," the mother of House of Machos says.

In the beginning there were only a handful of houses, while today there are around 20 across Mexico, he says.

It was in the United States where Alvarado, 30, experienced the original vogue scene.

"I began to learn and I began to study it more when I was teaching it, specifically to children between the ages of 13 and 15," Anuar says.

In addition to spreading the knowledge of vogue to students of all ages, the teacher also speaks about diversity at university forums and seminars.

"For me it is like an additional mission, which is going to speak at universities, giving interviews, giving lectures talking about diversity with totally different people," he says.

At forums, the openly gay Anuar finds himself sitting on panels alongside transsexual women, drag queens and psychologists.

By Ariel T. Rodriguez