The Prancing Elites Project is a new show on Oxygen that follows a black male gay dance team from Alabama. Those are all words you rarely see in a sentence together. The team specializes in the J-Setting style of dance that originated at Jackson University by the Jackson University Prancing J-Settes and it has been around for many years. The dance style wasn’t brought to mainstream consciousness until it was featured in Beyonce’s Single Ladies video. As for the Prancing Elites my first introduction to them was a couple of years ago when a video of them dancing at a basketball game went viral. Shaquille O’Neal tweeted his praise and their Youtube views went through the roof. I loved the video because their moves were filled with confidence and sass but I didn’t know anything about the team’s back story.
From a far away glance you may write off the Prancing Elites as another version of the effeminate black gay man stereotype. However I beg you to watch at least one episode to see that they are so much more. Yes they have an undeniable sashay when they walk but this dance troupe is kicking down the boundaries of gender and sexuality all with the flick of a wrist and a killer death drop. On one end of the spectrum there is Timothy Smith who lovingly goes by Timberly. Tim prefers the pronoun she and goes bra shopping complete with fake breast inserts. By contrast founder and leader Kentrell Collins formed the group in 2004 after he was discharged from the army. Their only agenda is to dance and entertain people but by doing so in Mobile Alabama while wearing sequin leotards they are boldly walking head on into the discrimination and fear of the deep south.
I can’t sing my praise of them loud enough! The Prancing Elites really are some the bravest people I’ve seen in a long time. They could take the easy way out and move to San Francisco or New York with everyone else that is trying to escape small town life but not these queens. They stay in Alabama and fight the dirty war of hate every single day. They’re the first ones to admit their struggle “We’ve got three strikes against us. We’re black, we’re gay, and we’re from Mobile Alabama.” From the comfort of the big city it’s easy for many of us to assume the whole country has joined our cause thanks to Ellen and Will and Grace. We forget that there is still very real hate out there. If you’re like me you might even consider yourself to be someone who tries to fight discrimination each and every day. Unfortunately the truth is we are just preaching to our own choir. Too often we as gay people think we are proudly standing up for diversity just because we change our Facebook pictures to that red equal sign so that all our other gay friends will see how serious we are. Maybe we go one step further and attend a marriage equality rally in the gayest section of our majorly gay metropolitan city. While any action is better than no action, preaching equality to other gay people is as easy as getting a dog to bark in a kennel. By stark contrast The Prancing Elites have chosen to taken the path less traveled and are standing up for themselves in the face of harsh opposition. They are often met by angry crowds and unfriendly police and that’s on a good day. In episode 3 we watch as Jerel returns home to discover that his home has been completely destroyed by fire. It quickly becomes clear that he was targeted and that this was no accident. He picks through the ashes only to find that he has lost everything he owns. That is the ugly side of the gay rights movement that is too often forgotten by those of us in a gay bubble. These five people who simply love to dance in sequin onesies are fighting for their rights in places many of us wouldn’t dare drive through on the highway. I have tremendous respect for them because they persevere and are able to give us one hell of a performance and one hell of a television show.
Watch the Prancing Elites Project on Oxygen Wednesday nights at 10 Eastern/9 Central.