J-Setting is a style of dance popularized by the Prancing J-Settes, a popular collegiate female dance team of the Jackson State University's Sonic Boom of the South marching band. It originated in the late 1970s from African-Americans in the Jackson, Mississippi, area of the United States.
This dance style is characterized by a lead and follow format where one dancer initiates a series of high-energy dance moves, and the other dancers join in the movement. J-Setting features specific dance steps based on Prancing J-Settes marching techniques including the "J-Sette Walk," the "Salt and Pepper," the "Strut," and the "Tip Toe". In particular, the "Salt and Pepper" is a type of prance step for which the Prancing J-Settes are named and known. It is a high-knee lift or "high step" style of marching. Alternating legs lift with a bent knee to bring the foot up to the height of the opposite knee before returning the foot to the ground.
The JSU Prancing J-Settes typically march and perform in rows organized by height. J-Setting dancers also typically perform in a line or in multiple lines. While performing, dancers may also change dance formation similar to the way that marching bands change formation during shows on football fields.
The J-Setting style of dress is modeled after the dance uniforms of the JSU Prancing J-Settes. It normally includes a one or two piece bodysuit or form-fitting garment that covers the torso and crotch; and hosiery with knee high boots on the legs. However, other types of garments are also worn during a performance.
History and background
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In 1970, Shirley Middleton and the other majorettes of the Jackson State University Marching Band met with then JSU president, Dr. John A. Peoples, to request that they be permitted to "put down their batons." The JSU President agreed; and as the majorette sponsor, Middleton assembled 18 female students to become the first Jaycettes (currently called J-Settes). Middleton, a formally trained ballet dancer, established technical performance standards for the J-Settes, as well as, standards for academic and personal behavior for its members when they were not performing. Dr. Jimmie James, Jr., then Chair of the JSU Department of Music, described the new dance team as "the thrill of a thousand eyes." During Middleton's tenure, performances included dance routines to songs such as "James Brown's "Make it Funky," and "Hot Pants" as performed by the JSU Marching Band.
Prior to 1975, Hollis Pippins, a former baton twirler for the JSU marching band, sometimes assisted J-Settes director Shirley Middleton, with choreography. In addition to performing with the JSU marching band, he performed on "Soul Train" and "Putting on the Hits" national television shows; and on "Black Gold", a local TV show. In 1975, Narah Oatis was appointed the sponsor of the Prancing J-Settes. Under her leadership, the "J-Sette Walk" and other signature marching steps were developed, and performances included an appearance on the "30th Anniversary of Motown" television show in 1990.
During the late 1970s, African American gay men who were fans of The Prancing J-Settes regularly attended the dance team's practice sessions, and performances at college football games and other events. Young gay men brought the J-Settes dance style back to their home towns, and to gay nightclubs like Club City Lights in Jackson, Mississippi; Club Skittles Baton Rouge; Incognito, Allusions, and 901 in Memphis; and Club 708 in Atlanta.
By the mid 2000s, J-Setting became popular in clubs such as: Club Candy'z, Splash Baton Rouge; Club Metro Jackson; Woodward, Tom Philips Post Detroit; Club 2020 Houston; Club Rush/ Chap Atlanta; Club Crystal's Lake Charles; Central Station Shreveport; and The Brick Dallas. Also several black gay pride events host organized J-Sette battles.
Mainstream media attention
In 1990, the Prancing J-Settes performed the J-Settes style of marching and dancing on the "30th Anniversary of Motown" television show. The dance team appeared as part of the JSU Marching Band in performances to "I Heard it through the Grapevine"and other songs. A video of part of this performance is available on YouTube.
In 2003, the Prancing J-Settes performed the J-Settes marching and dancing style on the "34th NAACP Image Awards" television show. The dance team appeared as part of the JSU Marching Band in performances with comedian "Cedric the Entertainer" and "Sugar Bear of E.U." A video of part of this performance is available on YouTube.
In 2008, both Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and "Diva" music videos included a J-Setting style dance routine. Choreographer Frank Gatson is credited with introducing the J-Setting dance style to Beyoncé.
J-Setting troupes compete in dance-offs at gay cultural events. These groups of young gay men and women imitate the JSU Prancing J-Settes marching and dance style and dress. These dance groups perform in costumes that are similar in appearance to the JSU J-Settes uniforms; including sequined one- and two-piece leotards, with long flowing capes, sheer stockings and white marching boots. Some of the popular J-Setting teams include: Jackson's Male Prancing J-Settes (MPJ); Memphis Elite; Atlanta's J-Phi; Texas Southern Heat; Texas Teasers of Dallas; D.M.B. of Atlanta; Atlanta Toxic; Jus Blaze; Dallas Diamonds; Baton Rouge Xtreme; Detroit Danz Zone; Nashville's Music City All-Starz; Capitol City Dolls International; Prancing Elites; Shreveport Pussy Cat Dolls; and Grambling, La.'s X-Men.
The competitions seen in Lifetime's Bring It! were inspired by J-Setting competitions.
Beginning April 22, 2015, the Oxygen channel began broadcasting a 12-episode documentary series entitled The Prancing Elites Project, focusing on the J-Setting group from Mobile, Alabama. The Prancing Elites had begun to attract national attention after a complimentary Tweet from Shaquille O'Neal in June 2013, which led to an appearance on the syndicated talk show The Real.
In 2018, a released documentary entitled "When The Beat Drops", chronicled the progression of J-Setting and its impact on black gay culture (primarily in Atlanta). Also in 2018, Great Big Story released a short documentary on Youtube about the Prancing J-Settes of Jackson State University and how they their distinctive style of dance influenced dance culture. And also in 2018, four Prancing J-Settes were invited to appear in a national commercial with Ciara.
- Welcome to my channel (2010-09-09). "Motown 30th (Part 1)". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
- Jackson State University (2009-08-18). "34th NAACP Image Awards". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
- BeyonceVevo (2009-10-02). "Single Ladies". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
- BeyonceVevo (2009-10-02). "Diva". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
- Tre'velle Anderson, "Prancing Elites spread message of acceptance in Oxygen docu-series", Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2015.
- Lawrence Specker, "Laughter and hope, as 'The Prancing Elites Project' premieres", Al.com, April 22, 2015.
- Nathan C. Martin, "The Passion of the Prancing Elites", Vice, January 21, 2014.