The Complicated Storytelling of the Prancing Elites Project

The Prancing Elites put on their own parade when rejected from the main event on the Prancing Elites Project.
The Prancing Elites Project (Photo: Maxwell Mason / Oxygen)

Oxygen’s The Prancing Elites Project is chock full of queer theory and dancing. Yes and yes.

Wednesday night featured the premiere of the reality series The Prancing Elites Project on Oxygen. For those not in the know1, the Prancing Elites are an all-male dance troupe from Mobile, Alabama. They quickly rose to fame after Shaquille O’Neal gave them a shoutout on Twitter and an appearance on the show The Real. All five members defy gender and hetero norms in their quest to just dance. You can imagine how that doesn’t play well in Alabama, but works wonders for basic cable.

If I am being totally honest, the production of this show is terrible. A good chunk of the first episode sounds more like a pitch meeting than a television show, with the introduction of each character accompanied by a brief bio and some choice quotes thrown in. To be fair, some of the quotes are hilarious, such as one group member referring to a teammate, “I describe her as marshmallows and horses with rainbows and stuff.” After the introductions, there are a solid three minutes of the troupe freaking out about meeting NeNe Leakes, who says she’s a fan of the group. I’m glad there is mutual admiration, but that kind of interaction isn’t particularly telegenic.

The actual story of the episode doesn’t begin until the second half of the half-hour, when the Prancing Elites’ application to participate in a parade gets denied. That doesn’t stop the group: after trying to crash the parade unsuccessfully, they walk along the parade route and do their routines anyway. There are fans, confused people, and slurs, but the Prancing Elites continue to do what they want to do. We later see the group consoling a child who doesn’t understand why the adults have such vitriol, a segment immediately preceded by an ad for PFLAG.

There are so many compelling elements in this story, but the presentation seems…off. Since the Prancing Elites Project is produced as a reality show rather than a documentary, the pacing is stretched making the story too thin. Existing on Oxygen doesn’t feel like quite the right fit either, but no other cable network seems like a more appropriate spot. Oddly, the show’s current geography on television mirrors the geographic challenges faced by the troupe. Were the Prancing Elites somewhere other than Alabama, they might not be experiencing the same level of adversity. However, there probably wouldn’t be much of a show, since people following the path to their dreams with no bumps along the way is the opposite of drama.

Overall, the message of the Prancing Elites Project comes through clearly: you be you, doing what makes you happy.

  1. Which was me until about 10:15pm Wednesday  

A Brief Word From Our Sponsors:

About Mike McComb 629 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv