Photos: Franklin Institute Summer Ball Dance Party for Pride Month

Do you love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia every day.


The Franklin Institute filled with flair last weekend as guests adorned in colorful robes walked down a lit runway at the historic institute’s Summer Ball.

A Pride Month special edition of Franklin’s regular “Science After Hours” event, the party featured a ballroom show by choreographer Kumar Jewel, drag shows by local queens and flashy talks about sexual health, fashion and food – all while DJ Electric Honey had a dance party going on in the planetarium, cheated on psychedelic patterns.

The idea was to create a welcoming queer space for everyone, said Adam Piazza, the Institute’s experience production and talent manager.

“You should expect that when you walk into this explosion of energy… the lights, the colors, the music — it should feel like you’re being welcomed to a party,” Piazza said. “You come in, you feel welcome, and then you have time to choose your own adventure.”

Franklin Hall dressed up for the occasion
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn

The event’s name paid tribute to Philadelphia ballroom culture, a long-standing LGBTQ+ subculture where people form homes and come together to compete for trophies.

Choreographer Jewel is part of the House of Xclusive Lanvin. He joined the vogue scene after being evicted from his home at age 16, and the ballroom community took him in.

“To me, ballroom, vogueing, this is all about community. It’s about being connected to my ancestors,” Jewel said. “It’s about this lifeblood of this history that goes back almost 100 years.”

Choreographer Kemar Jewel
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn

At the Franklin Institute in Center City last weekend, Jewel helped share some of that history. He ran two separate ball shows throughout the night, along with dancers Dalyla Mizani Cristal and Hayden West. Crowds gathered around the atrium as they showcased the five elements of fashion: catwalk, hands, spins and dips, duckwalks and floor performance.

Soon the audience members joined in, as Jewel led them through a routine where they fell to the floor.

Drag Queen VinChelle
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn

In Franklin’s beloved giant heart, spectators, seated on beanbags, listened to flash lectures hosted by Jayatri Das, the institute’s chief bioscientist.

“We wanted to get people who represent different communities and different interests,” Das told Billy Penn before the show. “My goal is really just to facilitate a conversation about how insights from science really apply to the actions and decisions we make every day about our own lives.”

Icon Ebony Fierce
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn

Fashion designer and former “Project Runway” participant Nancy Volpe Beringer was one of the speakers at the event and gave a talk on how fashion can make us feel. Beringer founded her couture brand here in Philadelphia with a focus on inclusivity and was the oldest contestant to ever appear on the reality TV show.

Researcher Federica Genovese and Jiana Burdick, founder of Get Fresh Philly, told the crowd about how our senses interact with the foods we eat.

Meanwhile, sex health educator Timaree Schmit gave an actual PowerPoint presentation about pleasure — and the power of consent.

Sexual health educator Timaree Schmidt
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn

“Maybe you like going to anything loud and clear. Or maybe you like going to something calmer, more meditative, and thought-provoking, said Piazza, Franklin’s experience producer. “It should just be a huge boost of serotonin — you should just feel so happy and proud of who you are.”

Scroll down for more photos from the Franklin Institute 2022 Summer Ball.

The telescope on the roof of the Franklin was open for viewing
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
The rooftop of the Franklin Institute offers a great view of the city
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
Eric Jaffe and Philly Elite Cheer
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
ballroom dips
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
Kemar Jewel and co.  to perform
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
Drag Queen Eric Jaffe
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
The audience is excited
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
A dancer from Kemar Jewel poses
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
DJ Electric Honey keeps the party going
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
The crowd dances on the floor of the Franklin Institute
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn
The grand finale was a chemical reaction that led to a confetti explosion
Anthony Eng for Billy Penn