Have you heard? A smokin’ hot majorette dance team brings a new dance style and chocolate flavor to the University of Southern California (SC) football games and the upcoming Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival.
If you attended an SC football game this past season, you probably noticed a new majorette team in the student section, the Cardinal Divas. The Divas – 10 College-age Black women brought excitement and thousands of football fans to their feet with their HBCU majorette dance style.
If you haven’t had the good fortune of seeing the Divas, there is no need for despair, as the Cardinal Divas plan to be out in full force for the 2023-24 football season and will perform for the first time at the upcoming 2023 Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival.
The USC Cardinal Divas, the first ever Black majorette team at SC, formed by musical-theater major Princess Isis Lang, lit up the Twitter-verse and caused a cultural appropriations debate that is still ongoing.
It all began with the posting of a video of the young ladies performing a routine in the stands at the L.A. Coliseum, a performance that viewers described as ‘fire.’ The video went viral, amassing over 3 million views and counting. The number of views surprised the Divas as they were unsure if their video should ever see the light of day. After all, the Cardinal Divas did not officially represent SC; that esteemed position belonged to the predominantly white dance team, the USC Song Girls, a traditional dance team whose Trojan football performances date back to 1968. In 2018, the SC Song Girls celebrated 50 years as “Ambassadors of Trojan Spirit.”
The Cardinal Divas did post that eight-second video, and the response from social media was instant, and stars were born.
“We were in the group [chat] like, no, you need to post this,” Cardinal Divas member Kyla-Drew Simmons said. “And then boom, she [Princess Lang] posted, and then it’s like at a million views, and the rest is history.”
While the newly formed majorette team was thrilled with their million-plus views, they were simultaneously shocked that some Black people did not want them to appropriate the HBCU dance style for performances at a predominantly White institution like SC, where only 5.8% of the student population was Black.
One Twitter user summed up the thoughts of many after viewing the video, writing: “This is great and all, but why not just go to an HBCU.” To date, this comment has received over 1,000 Likes.
For Lang, her admiration for the dancing HBCU majorettes like the Southern University’s Dancing Dolls or one of the originators of the art form, the Morris Brown College (MBC) Bubblin’ Brown Sugar, inspired her to form the Cardinal Divas.
“I wanted to be able to create a Black space for women anywhere,” Lang said. “I want to make sure there’s a space for Black women to be able to grow and see each other and to uplift each other and to inspire each other.”
Vicki Bailey Carson, a former member of MBC’s Bubblin’ Brown Sugar, is not surprised that the popularity of HBCU majorettes has continued to grow and influence dance teams at white institutions.
“When the culture of the HBCU bands changed, and they began to play songs from the radio, the majorettes joined in that cultural shift and put down their batons and began to perform choreographed routines,” Bailey Carson said. “As dancing in the entertainment industry evolved from shows and movies like “In Living Color,” “Drumline,” and most recently, Beyonce’s “Homecoming,” the dance style of Black majorette teams began to be embraced by different ethnic groups because of the energy, the creativity, and artistry that is on display when majorette squads take the field.
Other predominately White institutions have embraced HBCU majorette dancing, like the Crown Jewels of Georgia State University, and the San Diego State Diamonds, whose previous squad included the nationally known rapper Saweetie who did not hesitate to express pride in the Divas’ moves.
And now the Hollywood Bowl, the esteemed amphitheater that features some of the finest performances in the world, has called on the Divas to strut their stuff across their storied stage. The dancers will perform at the 2023 Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival.
“I couldn’t believe they wanted us to perform. We are so excited to have this opportunity and cannot wait to hit the stage,” Lang said.
The Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival, hosted by comedian extraordinaire Arsenio Hall, will welcome the Cardinal Divas to the stage on Sunday, June 18, Father’s Day. As Princess Lang said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Next stop for the Cardinal Divas, the Bowl, and then fingers and toes crossed for a Trojan football performance on the field at the LA Coliseum. One thing is for sure; millions will be watching.