Friday, April 11, 2014

Stand Battles & The Changing Meaning Of "Majorettes" In African American Culture

Edited by Azizi Powell

[latest revision: October 24, 2018]

This post provides definitions for "stand battles" and provides video examples of stand routines (battle stands) that are performed by community based groups such as Jackson, Mississippi's "Dancing Dolls", Jackson, Mississippi's "Purple Diamonds, and Memphis, Tennessee's "Prancing Tigerettes".

The Addendum to this post provides examples of Southern University's "Dancing Dolls", Alcorn State University's "Golden Girls", and Jackson State University's "Prancing J-Settes", three of the historically Black colleges & universities (HBCU) marching band affiliated dance lines whose performance styles have greatly influenced the (Jackson, Mississippi) "Dancing Dolls" and other community based dance groups (majorettes) who are featured on the American television series Bring It!. Note that the names of the Jackson, Mississippi "Dancing Dolls" group and their competitors the Memphis, Tennessee group "The Prancing Tigerettes" (and other competitors) were influenced by the names of historically Black colleges and universities' marching band affiliated dance lines.

The Addendum to this post also provides information about how the female groups that are auxiliaries of historically Black universities' marching bands changed their referent from "majorettes" to "dance lines". That excerpt also documents changes in the performance styles of those groups.

The content of this post is posted for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

"J-Setting, JSU's Prancing J-Settes, And Black Gay J-Setters"
"Stand Routines From Historically Black Colleges & Universities Dance Line Auditions"

Drum & Bugle Corp Majorettes
The older meaning of "majorette" (also known as "drum majorette") is "a young woman or girl who wears a uniform and makes a pattern of movements with a baton (= stick) by turning it and throwing it into the air, as part of a group of girls who do this or as the leader of a musical group"
While there are some YouTube videos of African American drum majorettes, it appears that there are fewer of this type of majorette group among African Americans than there has ever been.

Hip Hop Majorettes
At present, Hip Hop majorettes are [usually] entirely African American female groups from the Southern states. The groups refer to themselves as "majorettes"* and battle (compete) with other groups in majorette tours. One such group is Jackson, Mississippi's Dancing Dolls who are featured on the American television series "Bring It!". This post includes videos of "the Dancing Dolls" and "the Prancing Tigerettes" prior to these groups being showcased on the television series "Bring It!"

*In the "Bring It" series edition that aired on September 10, 2014, the coach of the showcased group the "Dancing Dolls" referred to that group's performance style as "Hip Hop majorettes". Here's the definition of "majorettes" that is given by Jackson Mississippi "Dancing Dolls" Coach Miss D (Diana Williams) in the video:
"'Majorette' is a form of dance that incorporates hip-hop, ballet, jazz, and a mixture of lyrical dance all together. It’s high energy, high paced. It’s fun, energetic, and it’s entertaining.
"Miss D's Dance Dictionary "Dance Styles" [.14-.26]
The Jackson, Mississippi "Dancing Dolls" and other majorette groups that they compete with perform choreographed, synchronized movements to percussive music. However, that music is recorded, not played by live drummers. Also, those new style majorette groups don't twirl and catch any batons or sticks.

Stand Battles
From “Bring It! [television show]
"Stand Battle: The stand battle works like a single elimination bracket tournament. The teams draw numbers and are randomly paired together. Each pair take turns trying to out dance each other. The teams go back and forth until the judges determine that one team wins. This is the most intense of all the categories because while the dance sequences are choreographed, when they are used is decided on the fly. The Captain must decide when to use what sequence based on the opposing team's sequence."
From [quote beginning at 1:24 of that video]
" “What is a stand battle?”
“A stand battle is when two teams take the dance floor at the same time. They take turns throwing eight counts back and forth until the judges declare a winner. “An eight count” is known as a stand.

Exchanging an eight count is like two boxers in the ring throwing punches back and forth with each team trying to land a killer combination. In war it’s back and forth shootin at each other. It’s the same thing. The only difference is that we don’t do that-we throw stands."
-Miss D (Diane Williams), Founder & Instructor/Coach - The Dancing Dolls (Jackson, Mississippi)
This video is embedded as Example #6 below and features a definition of "bucking" and other definitions.

One of the dance movements that Hip Hop majorettes perform is "bucking". "Bucking" -as performed by some African American majorette groups, particularly in the South- consists of performing rhythmic pelvic thrusts (pops) as part of a dance routine.

The term "bucking" is probably a new name for this very old African originated dance movement. The Houston, Texas group X-Treme Motion was the first to popularize "bucking" on television. That group competed on the 2010 television show "America's Best Dance Crew. Here's a link to a January 4, 2010 video of dance crew from a historically Black university in Houston, Texas whose summary statement mentions "bucking": Here's the summary statement from the publisher's Trecia KneCole Fan Page's summary statement:
"X-Treme Motion Dance Crew is a Houston Based Crew from "The Motion of the Ocean" Majorettes at Texas Southern University. They specialize in Hip-Hop, Jazz, Ballet, Funky Jazz, and Modern. But, Showcasing and bring their own dance style called "Bucking" to the forefront"
(Majorette) bucking isn't the same as a 19th century American term "buck dancing" which refers to clogging/tap dancing ("buck and wing"). Nor is "majorette bucking" the same as "buck jumping", a very old style of dancing and processional marching that members of New Orleans Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs & New Orleans second line paraders do.

Click for information and video examples of both of these types of dancing.

Death drop- Read the comments under Example #5: "Stand Battle 2013" below.
These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting dates with the oldest dated examples given first.

WARNING: A number of comments on some of these videos’ viewer comment threads contain profanity, racist language, and other objectionable content.

Example #1: The Dancing Dolls of Jackson...AKA "MINI J-SETTES"

oneyouluvtohate, Uploaded on Oct 30, 2009
"aka" means "also known as". Information about & a video of the "Jackson State University J-Settes" are found in the Addendum to this post.


dixie2176, Uploaded on Aug 16, 2011

Given the comments in the summary statement, I think the dance (majorette?) team "battling" the Purple Diamonds is the Dancing Divas.

I'm particularly interested in this video because it documents stand battles taking place on stages (as opposed to the floor of a gymnasium). I'm also interested in the way that the audience in this video reacts to the performances ("battles"), and the way that the dance captains shook hands when the result of the competition was announced.


TDABEST2011, Published on Aug 11, 2012

This 2012 video example of two Jackson, Mississippi pre-university dance groups feature “The Dancing Dolls” before they were showcased on the American television series “Bring It!”. These dance teams refer to themselves as “majorettes”.* This style of majorette performance is a distinct change from the “old style” of majorette performances.**

* The Dancing Dolls (Jackson, Mississippi)'s home page includes “pre-majorette, majorette I and majorette II” in the list of dance classes that are offered. Also,
Comment posted by “Dancing Dolls” March 28 [2014] “Majorette Tour is underway!!!”

**Here's a comment that I wrote on the pancocojams post
" appears that many (if not most) contemporary African American marching bands and African American drill teams have changed the definition of majorettes from "female baton twirlers" to "females who perform certain styles of dancing and/or marching/step movements to certain types of music", which rarely includes snare drums.

It's very difficult to find any video of a HBCU (historically Black college and university) or an African American high school unit (or predominately African American high school unit) that features baton twirling. However, three examples of that majorette style are included in that 2014 pancocojams post.

Example #4: Memphis elite battles tigerettes

pimp1908, Published on Jun 9, 2013
Notice that the Memphis Elite is a male group who are performing in a Hip-Hop/breakdancestyle and not the same style as the "Prancing Tigerette" or other "majorette" dance group. However, to date, I've only found one video of a stand battle that includes a high school group that included two males with its female members. That video is given as Example #2 in the Bonus video section below.

Example #5: Stand Battle 2013

BayAreaThuggn, Published on Aug 18, 2013

Dynamic Dancing Dollz vs. Purple Diamonds
Buck or Die 2013
Jackson, MS
Notice that the Dancing Dolls performed a death drop. "Death drops" came from voguing, a performance style that originated in New York City gay ballroom scenes.

Vogue, or voguing, is a highly stylized, modern house dance that evolved out of the Harlem [gay] ballroom scene in the 1980s...
"The dip is the fall, drop, or descent backward onto one's back with one's leg folded underneath. Mainstream dance forms popularized the dip, which is occasionally called the "death drop" when done in dramatics style. Due to popular media, the dip is sometimes incorrectly termed the "5000", "shablam", and "shabam"; such misnomers likely stem from older commentators chanting the word "shawam" when a voguer successfully completed a dip."
I don't think that this definition of the death drop has anything to do with the use of the phrase "dip it low" in the video title of Example #2 and the summary statement of Example #3.

Example #6: Bring It!: Buzzwords

Lifetime Published on Mar 6, 2014

Check out a dictionary of the different dance routines that the Dancing Dolls participate in, in this Bring It! video extra.
Here's a comment from that video's viewer comment thread
Book Multimedia, 2014
"This show is an accurate display of how many dance teams function. and it would be no different without the cameras. i believe those kids and their sponsors are doing a great job. they train those girls with basic to advanced collegiate & Professional dance technique. if you were a fan of the marching band culture in the south. you would understand.. this is how Many dance teams function. i see influence from the A few teams in the SWAC on display."
Two examples of SWAC dance teams are presented in the Addendum to this post
I've just come across a number of videos of dance battles whose performances are very similar to the performances shown above. However, those performance styles differ from those previously showcased groups n that the dance teams represent specific high schools AND the dance teams perform to the beat of live (snare) drums & cymbals. Unfortunately, no location is given for these events, but I've identified one of the groups as "the Dancing Diamonds" from Lovejoy High School in Lucas, Texas. It's likely that the other competing dance groups are also from Texas, if not from that Texas city. If you have any information about these groups, please add it in the comment section below. Thanks!

Bonus Example #1: Battle Of The Dance Lines 2012 - (Stands Competition Group -1)

atlbattle, Published on Jan 13, 2013

high school band
One of these competing groups include two males.

Bonus Example #2: Battle Of The Dance Lines 2012 - ( Stands Competition Group - 4 )

atlbattle, Published on Jan 13, 2013

high school band

[Revised October 24, 2018]

From" The Prancing J-Settes, Jackson State University Auxiliary Dancers: “Origin and Development of the Prancing J-Settes”
" “Prancing J-Settes” is the official name of the Jackson State University dance line, an auxiliary group of the Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South.” ...

In 1971, Shirley Middleton, a former majorette, initiated the concept of the majorettes abandoning their batons and dancing to popular musical selections. As the majorette sponsor, Shirley Middleton and the majorettes met with Dr. John A. Peoples, the University’s sixth president, and requested that they be permitted to “put down their batons.”

Dr. Peoples agreed and thus legends were born. In 1970, Middleton assembled 18 majorettes, and their notoriety immediately began to soar in rapid proportions...

The group was initially named the “Prancing Jaycettes.” The group’s name became official in 1971. However, in 1982, the Prancing Jaycette organization officially changed its name to Prancing J-Settes, because of a name conflict with a local organization known as the Jackson Jaycees/Jaycettes.

Shirley Middleton served as sponsor of the J-Settes from 1970-1975. In 1975, Narah Oatis was appointed the sponsor of the J-Settes. Under her leadership, the Prancing J-Settes became nationally renowned. During her reign, J-Sette marching technics such as the “Salt and Pepper,” “J-Sette Walk,” “Strut,” and “Tip Toe” were perfected. The J-Settes consisted of lines of 12-16 young ladies who marched in rows affectionately named “Short and Sassy,” “Magnificent Middle,” or a “Tall and Tough.” ...
end of quote
The marching band affiliated dance lines at many historically Black colleges & university in the Southern region of the United States have greatly influenced the creation of pre-university Hip Hop majorette dance lines. That said, the performance styles of those university affiliated dance lines differ considerably from Hip Hop majorette dance lines such as Jackson, Mississippi's Dancing Doll community group that is featured on the United States' television series Bring It! which debuted March 5, 2014 and began its fifth season in March 2018. . Notice that the "Dancing Doll" name of that Jackson, Mississippi Hip Hop majorette grou is the same name as Baton Rouge, Louisiana's Southern University's marching band affiliated dance line. And the name of Jackson, Mississippi "Dancing Dolls"'s competitor's "The Prancing Tigerettes" (from Memphis, Tennessee) is modeled after the name of the Jackson State University's "The Prancing J-Settes". Indeed, "The Tigerettes" was another name for the Prancing J-Settes "back in the day":
*from The Prancing Jsettes I go to Work, published by ChicagoMarchingBands in Apr 24, 2008
karamalebro, 2008
"The J-Settes are always known as the J-Settes-the Prancing J-Settes to be exact. Under the supervision of Ms. Oatis, however, the J-Settes went under the pseudonym-the TIGERETTES-whenever they put on those tiger print uniforms. Remember I stated, "Back in the day."
Thanks for enligtening all on the name of the uniform.
JSU Alumni, 1996."
The fact that the Prancing J-Settes' signature moves have greatly influenced the Jackson, Mississippi Dancing Dolls and other majorette groups is documented by the content of this announcement for auditions on the (Jackson, Miss.) Dancing Doll's website
"Dancing Dolls Dance Team 2015 Tryouts are February 2015 at the Dollhouse Dance Factory....

Dancing Dolls is for girls ages 10-17. Dancing Dolls FINAL tryouts for the 2013 season will be held February 2015 at the Dollhouse Dance Factory. There is a $20 fee per dancer. Troyout Camp times are as follows...

Dancing Dolls require the following: Marching (Salt N Pepper & Swing), Struts (J-Sette Walk & Prancing), Splits, Kicks (both legs), Rollovers (front and Back), Cartwheel, Toe Touch, Back bend and Deathdrop. All moves are taught during camp sessions. A group dance will be taught consisting of 9-12 eight counts..."

Example #1: SU Dancing Dolls at SWAC Championship 2013

HBCUBANDS.COM, Published on Dec 9, 2013

SU Dancing Dolls at SWAC Championship 2013
Southern University is a historically Black university that is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "Dancing Dolls" is the name of that university band's dance line.

"HBCU" = Historically Black Colleges & Universities
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is a collegiate athletic conference headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, which is made up of historically black universities in the Southern United States.

Example #2: The Golden Girls vs The Prancing J-Settes Both Dancing to Bad Girls @ The SWAC Championship

HBCUBANDS.COM, Published on Dec 12, 2013

Which Squad had the Better Routine?...
The Golden Girls is the name of the dance team that is an auxiliary of the Alcorn State University (Lorman, Mississippi) marching band.

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  1. Thank you for this excellent info. I don't live in this region and didn't have the background to understand or follow the tv shows.

    1. You're welcome, anonymous.

      I'm glad that this post helped explain this performance art.

      Best wishes!

  2. Thanks so much thinking of starting my own team

  3. Thanks so much thinking of starting my own team

    1. Greetings, unknown September 24, 2015

      If you go forward with your idea of starting your own J-Sette/Majorette team, I hope that you have lots of success.

  4. Replies
    1. Unknown, I'm sorry, but I have no information or advice for you about that.

      I'm not affiliated in any way with any J-Sette/ Majorette team or television program.

  5. I just found this 2017 article while searching for online information about majorette dance lines: "What the Show “Bring It!” Gets Wrong about Dance Competitions Nat Berman August 14, 2017

    That well written article gives a shout out to me and this pancocojams blog. Thanks, Nat Berman!

    I attempted to register so that I could thank you in that comment section, but I must have done something wrong and I didn't receive a registration response to my email at azizip17 at