The Prancing Elite Project Returns Tonight: Thank you, Oxygen!

The Prancing Elite Project Returns Tonight: Thank you, Oxygen!

Oh, how I adore them so much.

Tonight will mark the return of Oxygen's The Prancing Elite Project. The show follows a group of five gay and non-gender-conforming African-American dancers from Mobile, Alabama, who practice “J-setting,” a mix of cheerleading and hip-hop dancing traditionally performed by women during college football games.

Known as the Prancing Elites, Adrian Clemons, Kentrell Collins, Kareem Davis, Jerel Maddox and Timothy Smith first made headlines when they were barred from dancing in a local Christmas parade in 2013. They then gained national notoriety after Shaquille O’Neal tweeted a video of them dancing at a basketball game that same year. The tweet also attracted the attention of several production communities, who competed to secure the Elites for a reality series. Atlanta- and Los Angeles-based Crazy Legs Productions ultimately landed the team, shot a sizzle reel and sold the show to Oxygen.

Tonight at 8/7c the show will begin focusing on the ways the Elites’ increasing profile has complicated the group’s dynamic. Oxygen extended the show from 30 minutes to an hour, giving producers a chance to delve deeper into each of the Elites’ personal stories.

As a result, season two is much more dramatic than the first.

“In the first week we showed up in Mobile, Jerel’s house burned down,” explains showrunner and executive producer Sarah Quick told Realscreen News. “In two weeks, I started noticing Kareem was very ill. I started talking to him and his HIV diagnosis was revealed. We had gone in thinking this was a half-hour comedy and right off the bat we realized there was a lot more to this.”

In the premiere episode, Davis’ grandmother confronts him over his decision to come out as HIV-positive on television before telling many of his loved ones. Meanwhile, the Elites hire a new manager after a performance at a local charity benefit goes poorly, and Collins – the group’s leader – ponders a solo gig.

The Elites’ playful sense of humor and positive attitudes in the face of such negativity is a key part of what prompted me to start watching the show. They have truly gone through so much adversity but it has made them stronger because of it. It is a bond of that nature that can never be broken.

If you haven't seen this show already, here's an emotional spoiler alert:  these non-gender-conforming African American dancers will make you fall in love with them, you'll cry with them and you'll want to help fight every battle with them. They are, in fact, our future.

Last April, Diane Sawyer interviewed Caitlyn Jenner, another series focused on the lives of LGBT characters, and that interview put a spotlight on the transgendered world. I think Diane Sawyer should move the camera to spotlight these brilliant individuals and share their story with the world. These are the stories we need to hear. They must be told.

 

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