Prancing Elites are a seven-piece black, male dance troupe based between Baton Rouge, Louisana and Mobile, Alabama. Between 2015 and 2016, the group appeared in reality TV show The Prancing Elites Project, which is available to watch on All 4.
After Pride sharing their social posts last year showing the prejudice and discrimination they received from some of the community in Alabama, and the hugely supportive response from the global Pride family, we wanted to share our love and unity so invited them to Brighton to lead the Pride parade and appear on the main stage of Pride In The Park for their first ever UK performance. Pride caught up with the group’s founder Kentrell Collins to talk about how to deal with haters, Beyonce’s legendary Coachella performance, and how he got on during his time in the army.
How did the Prancing Elites come to be?
Back in high school, I always wanted to dance as part of the dance team but males weren’t allowed to audition, yet we were often the ones teaching the girls behind the scenes. I was in the band and my senior year was very much something I was tired of. So I decided to rebel and start the group. I just felt why can’t we do it? Why can’t we be ourselves? Just because the school system says so?
What was the response like?
Back then, in 2004, people didn’t respond well at all. We got a lot of looks and we got called a lot of names; it wasn’t something anyone was too fond of. We used to dance at football games and there were times when the police escorted us out of the stadium.
Do you still get bad responses?
Yeah, which time? I can give you an example of a parade. We were just dancing and marching and we got to a particular area and someone in the crowd through a beer keg and we didn’t know was happening until we looked up and we’re all wet with beer. That was a moment for me when we had to sit back and think ‘did we do something wrong?’ It was embarrassing but it kept us going.
How do you deal with negative reactions?
There’s never really honestly an easy way to deal with them besides just dealing with it, you know? We’ve never gotten to the point where we just gave up. When people do things like that it just motivates us to keep going.
Do you get a different response depending on where you perform?
When we go to California, we get major love. In New York, it’s major love. In Atlanta the response is a bit iffy. In New Orleans it’s a little better. I’ve learned that different parts of the world are more open to things compared to how it is down south where we’re all from. We’ve performed in Canada. That experience was something. It was very friendly. The police even had rainbow flags on their cars.
How did the TV show come about?
We were all just doing what we normally do and we had a video that we posted on social media. It went viral on facebook – and this was back when viral wasn’t even a thing. You really had to be doing something in order for a video to go viral. We also posted it Youtube and Shaquille O’Neal tweeted it and – him being this big masculine basketball player – everyone retweeted it. Shortly after, we had tons of emails and phone calls from production companies. After speaking with a few different companies, we narrowed it down and ended up being on [US network] Oxygen.
What was your response when Shaquille O’Neal tweeted the video?
It felt unbelievable. We still haven’t met him yet. But it just feels unreal. The question I’ve always wanted to ask is ‘how did you find us?’
How did the TV show change your life?
The notoriety with the public is still there. I can still go to a Walmart and fans want to take my picture; I can go to a nightclub and people will recognise me. The success of the show also allowed me to create a non-profit organisation called HCBU Dance Affair, which I have taken to six different cities and put on dance shows. I believe all kids should be able to see dance shows and know they can take part if they want to.
Are there many other examples of all-male dance groups?
I’ve seen plenty of people trying to do what we do and create their own team – but it is nothing like the original, if that makes sense.
How often do you practise?
It’s usually when people reach out and ask us to perform. It’s probably once or twice a month we get to practise now. It’s kind of difficult for us to rehearse like we want to because three of our members live in a different state so we will travel back and forth every weekend or every other weekend. They live three hours away but with our passion for the dance we drive those three hours.
Where do you get inspiration for your routines?
I guess it all comes from within. We all pretty much just have our own thought process when we come to dance. We all just love it and want to do it. Musicians we love are also inspirations.
Yes, Beyonce of course. We’ve actually taken some of what we’ll be performing at Pride from her Coachella performance.
Did you do the whole club thing? And did you take inspiration from watching how people dance?
I definitely did the whole club thing. I may take inspiration from people dancing in the club. But usually we’re the ones dancing the whole night.
You spent time in the army. Did you enjoy it?
Yes. I did enjoy my time in the army as far as the training. I was posted in Germany and that was cool. It was just not something I wanted to do at the time – I was 17, 18. But the experience really inspired how I train for dances – everything has to be right and correct .
Any exciting projects lined up?
As far as projects, we are in talks to work on something. Our show was never cancelled. Basically what happened was the network changed format and pulled everything that wasn’t a crime show. We had the highest rated show on the network though, so watch this space.
The Prancing Elites are leading the Pride Community Parade on Saturday 3rd August as well as -performing on the main stage at Pride In The Park on Saturday 3rd August in Preston Park and at the Pride Opening Party in the Pride Pleasure Gardens on Friday 2nd August.