Have you heard of the Prancing Elites? Well, we are an all-male, African-American gay dance team from Mobile, Alabama. We have a passion for dance that is impeccable. We may not be accepted by all of society because we are homosexual males, but the love that we have for what we do won't stop us because someone doesn’t like it.
My name is Kentrell and I am the captain of this dance team. Since 2004, I have been passionate for the dance style j-setting. J-Setting is a highly stylized modern lead and follow style of hip hop dance, characterized by cheerleading-style sharp movements to eight-beat count music. Popular in southern U.S. African-American gay clubs, like the vogue style before it, it became popular by exposure in Beyoncé Knowles’s music video "Single Ladies” (Put a Ring on It). The name “j-setting” derived from the “Prancing J-Settes”, which is the female dance team of Jackson State University’s “Sonic Boom of the South” marching band.
The Prancing Elites consists of five members: Kentrell Collins, Adrian Clemons, Jerel Maddox, Kareem Davis, and Timothy Smith. The main reason that the team was created is because boys aren’t allowed to audition for the dance teams in the school system in Mobile, Alabama. In their eyes, morally it isn’t right. So, we created our own team. If the girls are doing it, why can’t the boys do it too?
The team “Elites” was created in 2006 when Elite Hayward, the founder, passed. The name was chosen to pay homage to his death. Since then I have maintained this team by holding auditions yearly. The word “prancing” was added in October 2011. On December 16, 2012, an audition was held and 10 members were chosen including me, but only the strongest have survived.
We then felt like we would start being accepted by society, but we were wrong. We love performing at football games. We were performing in the stands at a game in our hometown of Mobile, Alabama, and the police officer told us, “You all are not the entertainment, and you should be ashamed of yourselves for being up here dancing like girls. If you all get up and even look like you're dancing then we are going to put you out and you will not be getting refunded.” We feel that we were personally discriminated against because we are gay males portraying a feminine image, but whatever happened to freedom of expression.
After Shaquille O’Neal made a tweet about a video of ours, blog sites from all over the world started creating articles about the “All-male cheerleading squad from Mobile, AL.” The buzz even made it to Los Angeles where the television show, “The Real” is taped. The show’s producers reached out to us to see if we would come to Los Angeles to perform on the show, of course we agreed. The highlight of being flown to L.A. was the fact that we were finally going to be on national television doing what we love and the fact that the hosts; Tamar Braxton, Tamara Mowry, Adrienne Bailon, Loni Love, and Jeannie Mai loved us. Skip to 37:20 and you will be able to see our performance and interview on the show.
THIS IS THE VIDEO THAT SHAQUILLE O'NEAL TWEETED OUT.
Videos such as these have received a large number of views. Of course, these videos have some of the most hurtful comments that anyone can endure, but because we love dance so much, we still put on our leotards and tights and continue pushing forward.
PURPOSE FOR KICKSTARTER!!!!!
The purpose for us creating a Kickstarter campaign is because we need HELP!!!! First thing first, in order to be the best, you have to PRACTICE…. And practice doesn’t make perfect, PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. We practice all year round, regardless if it’s raining, freezing cold, or scorching hot, we still have to practice. The only sad part about this situation is that we don’t have a practice space. We practice at night from 10pm-2am five nights a week in an elementary school parking lot and their P.E. field. The neighborhood where the school is located causes us to worry at night when unfamiliar cars ride by numerous times. We are scared for our lives, because being in the South, there are still a lot of homophobic people and we never know who’s having a bad day and may harm us physically. The reason for the late practice is because several members have jobs and are full time students. This in itself should show you our passion still outweighs all the compromising situations we encounter. So with all that being said, we are trying to help raise money to have a safe practice space where we can just do what we love and feel safe from any violence. If you are a parent, think of us as your own kids, would you want your child practicing at night in an open field with strange cars riding by? We’ve tried to contact local gyms, dance studios, churches, and YMCAs, none of which are willing to help us. We’ve asked to just borrow the space at night and we always get told no. However, those no’s won’t stop us from practicing. Now we are entering winter and here is a practice video from last weeks practice in 30 degree weather and it’s only November! We’ve searched around for practice spaces and the cheapest space that we’ve found was $850.00 a month just for renting the space and that doesn’t include the electricity.
Any dancer out there knows that this is unacceptable. We’ve literally danced a hole in our shoes. Having holes in your shoes as a dancer can cause dangerous falls or other accidents that can damage your body in ways that may cause a person to never be able to dance again. Your pledging on our project can help reward us in getting new dance shoes.
One part of being a Prancing Elite dancer is that we must wear leotards and tights. I make all the costumes by hand. We order the leotards whole, and then I create the design afterwards. I know you may say, “You are a great seamstress if you can hand sew all those costumes”. Well truth is, I don’t know how to sew. All of our costumes are made with hot glue and scissors. After doing this for soooo long I’ve learned a few tricks to making the uniforms stay in tact.
But like any glue, the adhesive wears off. And we’ve been in several performances where the sequins came apart from the leotard ruining the design. With your pledge, you will help me make better costumes either with a stronger adhesive or a sewing machine with instructions on how to sew. Another thing is our tights are ruined, and they are $17.00 a pair. We choose these tights because they generally last for about 90 days before they start tearing.
What we love to do is perform at football games. We will perform wherever, but this is where it all began. We love it so much that we are willing to pay $30.00 or more to get into these events; just to risk the possibility of getting put out for dancing, which I still think is absurd because we aren’t harming anyone at all. We have to turn down a lot of events, due to the fact of finances. We have to travel to a lot of places that require lodging. And we have to pay out of pocket. With Kickstarter, we hope that when we get the call back for America’s Got Talent we will be able to have the funds that we need to travel to the next audition in Los Angeles or New York. I don’t want the team to have to suffer from auditioning because we didn’t have the funds to make it to those places. Your pledge will help us in our travel, hotel & lodging, and food on these trips that we would like to take to let the world see us up-close and personal.
Risks and challenges
Our faith in this project is above and beyond where my heart lies. We have wanted nothing more than to be free, accepted by society and have people just let us DANCE. The risks and challenges will of course be there, but considering the course of life we are on, we are EXTREMELY DETERMINED. Each one of us has a unique story to tell, from all of us growing up in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Mobile & Daphne, Alabama; to us not have money to even eat at night, to all of us not having our father in our lives to be that father figure we all needed. Throughout all the homophobic gestures, being thrown out of events by police, practicing in 30 degree weather, physical threats, eggs being thrown at us; WE STILL JUST WANT TO DANCE. In January 2014, we will be getting our information regarding the next steps in the America's Got Talent audition process. In February 2014, our team will start performing in Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Lousiana. When we successfully complete the project in 30 days, we'll be able to have the appropriate funds to get the necessary items and equipments that we've been longing for. After funds are successfully raised, the Prancing Elites will be in full swing to a new beginning.
IF WE DON'T SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE THIS CAMPAIGN, MEANING IF WE DON'T HIT OUR GOAL OF $15, 000.00, NOONE WILL BE CHARGED.... IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE HIT OUR GOAL.... PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY....Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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