The Prancing J-Settes
“The Thrill of a Million Eyes”
“Origin and Development of the Prancing J-Settes”
“Prancing J-Settes” is the official name of the Jackson State University dance line, an auxiliary group of the Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South.” The Prancing J-Settes are supervised by Ms. Chloe Ashley, J-Settes Director. The Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” is an ensemble of the Department of Music, Dr. Darcie Bishop, Interim Chair.
“The thrill of a thousand eyes,” were the words spoken by Dr. Jimmie James, Jr. at the onset of the “Prancing Jaycettes” in 1971. Shirley Middleton, a former majorette, initiated the concept of the majorettes abandoning their batons and dancing to popular musical selections. As the majorette sponsor, Shirley Middleton and the majorettes met with Dr. John A. Peoples, the University’s sixth president, and requested that they be permitted to “put down their batons.”
Dr. Peoples agreed and thus legends were born. In 1970, Middleton assembled 18 majorettes, and their notoriety immediately began to soar in rapid proportions. Their beauty, grace, and poise were astounding and their dance routines to songs such as “Kool-Aid,” James Brown’s “Make it Funky,” and “Hot Pants,” were magnificent, unmatched by any other competing groups.
The group was initially named the “Prancing Jaycettes.” The group’s name became official in 1971. However, in 1982, the Prancing Jaycette organization officially changed its name to Prancing J-Settes, because of a name conflict with a local organization known as the Jackson Jaycees/Jaycettes.
As a trained ballet dancer, Shirley Middleton held the J-Settes to a very high standard of perfection. Also, the late Hollis Pippins, a JSU twirler and a dancer of high performance in his own right, took great pride in providing the J-Settes with excellent choreography. In addition to emphasis on perfecting dance routines, it was completely unacceptable for any J-Sette to display mannerism and stature of anything less than a model citizen.
Shirley Middleton served as sponsor of the J-Settes from 1970-1975. In 1975, Narah Oatis was appointed the sponsor of the J-Settes. Under her leadership, the Prancing J-Settes became nationally renowned. During her reign, J-Sette marching technics such as the “Salt and Pepper,” “J-Sette Walk,” “Strut,” and “Tip Toe” were perfected. The J-Settes consisted of lines of 12-16 young ladies who marched in rows affectionately named “Short and Sassy,” “Magnificent Middle,” or a “Tall and Tough.” Mrs. Oatis tenure is best remembered by many for the J-Settes’s stellar performance at the 30th Anniversary of Motown in 1990, the “Coming to America routine,” “Proud Mary,” and the “Liturgical dance routine.” (“Coming to America” and the “Proud Mary” routines were both originally performed in 1995. The “Liturgical dance routine” was first performed in 1996.) Narah Oatis served as director (sponsor) of the Prancing J-Settes for 21 years. She resigned as sponsor of the J-Settes in February 1997.
In the Spring of 1997, a former J-Sette captain, Mrs. Kathy Pinkston-Worthy was appointed director (sponsor) of the Prancing J-Settes. Under her direction, the J-Settes have become nationally known for their rapid fire highly technical dance routines to selections such as “I Go to Work” and “Swoop.” Perhaps, the most celebrated marque performance by the Prancing J-Settes was rendered at the 34th NAACP Image Awards in Hollywood, California in 2003 where the J-Settes performed on National Television with “Cedric the Entertainer” and “Sugar Bear of E.U.” Both routines were choreographed by Mrs. Worthy.