Your favorite hip-hop majorettes are coming to a city near you!
The Dancing Dolls of Lifetime’s Bring It! are taking their special brand of death-defying moves and undeniable swagger on the road, embarking on a 32-city tour sponsored by EBONY.
We chatted with Dancing Dolls head coach, Dianna “Miss D” Williams, about the upcoming tour, HBCU influences and how Beyonce´’s Coachella performance truly changed the game.
You guys are about to venture out on your third major live tour. What is it about your stage show that keeps the people intrigued and excited enough that they want to see you live?
The stage shows are way bigger than what they show on television. The TV show has a lot of edited routines, and you don’t get a chance to hear the real music or to really engage with the girls to see who they really are. With the stage show, you get to see the girls up close and personal, hear the real music and see the unedited version.
You’ll also see that these girls are really pulling off these amazing dance moves in real life. It’s not a camera trick; they’re really doing death drops and jumping into splits and everything. There’s also a lot of interaction between us and the audience. They get to be a part of the show.
I know there’s going to be a lot of audience participation during this tour.
There has to be! If not, I get bored. I’m the one who always wants to keep the energy pumping, running across the stage during intermission, jumping in the crowd, playing around with the DJ, joking with the audience, everything. I know I’m not supposed to be jumping down into the crowd, but I do it every show, even if I get in trouble later [laughs]. Sometimes, I’ll even pop up in the balcony for those that can’t sit down by the stage.
What would you say is the most difficult thing about touring the country with so many women at once?
Well, you said it best: so many women! Keep in mind, these are teenage girls, so they’re going to have attitudes and issues with each other; they’re not going to always get along. It could also be a situation where they’re homesick, too, missing their families. I’m a mom; I have a 9-year-old little boy who toured with me a bit last year, but when I had shows where he couldn’t be there, I missed him so much, so I understand that it can be hard.
I have to remind the girls regularly that this is not about you. You have now become something so much bigger than yourself, meaning you’ll have to cast aside your personal issues and feelings sometimes because other people need you in order for them to be happy. Yes, you are a teenager who was born into this world selfish, but now you are learning to become a young professional.
How would you say dancing affects the Dolls’, and in general, women’s self-esteem?
Our tour this year is all about the empowerment of women. I think the girls’ self-esteem gets higher every time they land a trick, every time that they try new pique turn or a double pirouette and get it just right, you can see how much confidence it gives them.
This year on the tour, Camryn’s solo is so ridiculous with everything that goes into it, and I was just in awe watching her. Watching all of their growth is just insane, and I know how happy dancing and landing those moves makes them.
Since Beyoncé’s Coachella performance, there’s been an increased interest in majorette/hip-hop dance, especially as it pertains to HBCU campus culture. How does being a part of this crew prepare young women for campus competitions and dance beyond being a Doll? And what did you think of Bey’s performance?
We have lived HBCU lives since the birth of Dancing Dolls. I am a graduate of the most predominant HBCU in the world, the Jackson State University! Everything I know about our style of majorette dance comes from JSU. One of my girls, Makayla, will be dancing there in the fall. Camryn is going to Southern University; Deja is going to Alabama State; and Crystianna, Makiah and Canary are all going to Auburn. For us, the love that we have for HBCUs is just insurmountable.
It’s funny, because we filmed an episode that isn’t out yet where the girls do a performance called Dance in the Stands, where they walk in with a marching band and compete against other teams dancing in the stands. We had a meeting about this in March, and when I saw what Beyoncé did at Coachella in April, I said, “Oh my God!!!”
She did it before we had a chance, which also solidified what we were trying to do. We were going to take the routine on the road anyway, and it kind of validated the idea. The girls love Beyoncé; they met her once before and she’s supersweet. She told us Blue watches the show, which the girls thought was just insane! I told them, “You never know who’s watching! While you watching them, they watching you!” [laughs]. We do an homage to her every year because the girls adore her. We need a Beyoncé routine every year for good luck!
She used her platform to shed a much-needed light on what goes on at HBCUs. It was mind-blowing because this has been my life! Some people don’t understand the Dancing Dolls, but they understood Coachella. That is what we do! That is who we are!
Who would you say are your three favorite dancers or biggest dance influences?
Janet Jackson is the first. I’ve followed her since I was a child. I looked at her as someone I could relate to because she was so young when she started, and even to this day with her comeback after the baby, I’ve just always admired her.
The second person would have to be Debbie Allen. I watched Fame as a little girl, and I never thought I’d be the one wielding the stick [laughs]. Not only as a dancer, but as a producer, an actress, everything she’s become over the years, it just keeps me looking forward to what she’s going to do next, and at the end of the day, she still dances. Seriously, I need to go work out!
The last person I’d say is Misty Copeland. It’s been great to watch her elevate to become the first Black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. It’s crazy, the backlash that she received and the nonsupport from a community of dance that not a lot of African-Americans tap into. But because she was able to tap into it and become this amazing figure for so many people, she’s a hero in the dance world.
Coming up, What classic dance routines inspired you?
“Rhythm Nation!” We redid “Rhythm Nation” on the show! We had the black jackets and the hats, earrings with the keys on them, everything. The girls had no idea who Janet Jackson was, and I said, “I will kill you all [laughs]!” For me, that was iconic, and to be able to teach them that and introduce them to something and someone they didn’t know was amazing.
The second would be “What About Your Friends” by TLC. I grew up to TLC’s music; [for] me and my friends, that was our group! The girls did an homage to them as well and got to meet Chilli.
Last, I have to go back to Beyoncé’s Coachella routine, “Getting to the Money.” It wasn’t about the money part of it, it was about getting to the business! The girls told me right away, “We have to learn this!”
How would you define a “successful” tour once everything wraps up?
Nobody getting hurt! That’s the biggest thing, making sure everyone comes out with all their limbs intact [laughs] because they risk injury every single night in the name of entertainment. Also, seeing the smiles on the faces of our fans, hearing them cheer us on, seeing them dress up like the Dolls, they really become a part of our family and it’s an amazing feeling.
Check out tour dates and purchase tickets at BringItLiveTour.com.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.