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Jass Class

Baby Doll Dancers Take 100 Years of Satin and Sass to Old U.S. Mint



Though the Carnival season is long gone, the historic Baby Doll Ladies remain hard at work; entertaining, while educating us on a cherished local tradition. The ladies are popping up at various events around the city, and they’ve become part of the mainstay the celebration of Mardi Gras, post Hurricane Katrina. Now, some of the treasured stories told of the Baby Dolls from a century ago are coming to an entertainment stage.

 

Millisia White’s New Orleans Society of Dance present “Oh, Those Baby Doll Ladies’ Cabaret”, in association with the Louisiana State Museum and the Louisiana Museum Foundation. The three-part series begins May 31st, at the Old U.S. Mint, 400 Esplanade Ave. Doors open at 7pm and the show begins at 7:45pm. Tickets are $20 (general admission) and $15 for seniors and students (with I.D.)

 

“Dancing the Jass: Era of The Pioneer Dolls (1912-1940)” is the first show of the three-part progression; series that chronicles the transformations of a century old, endearing Mardi Gras tradition of doll masquerading. The songs, dances and skits will take audiences back through time. Much of the show’s dialogue was taken from actual interviews done over 70 years ago by Federal Writer’s Project researcher; and native, Robert McKinney; who spoke to women who masked in the black community.

 

“You’ll see; through their words, how it all happened-how it all began,” NOSD founder Millisia White says. The interviews were done in 1940; some of the women interviewed were part of the Original Million Dollar Baby Dolls. They were in their late 50’s, early 60’s; so they were telling him how it was back in time around 1912. I get chills every time I go through the paperwork.”

 

White also served as co-curator of the January 2013 Louisiana State Museum’s exhibit, ‘They Call me Baby Doll.’ Act two: “To Die For: Era of the Traditional Dolls” (c. 1950-1980) will premier on June 14th, followed by Act three: “Resurrection Era of the Baby Doll Ladies” (c. 1990-present) which takes place on June 28th.

 

“After the first show, you’ll begin to identify with these characters- we pay homage to the pioneer dolls of that first era; The Million Dollar Baby Dolls, and how they became Baby Dolls.” White added.

 

The shows to follow will take audiences though the transition of the tradition; as family and neighborhood groups (such as the noted Batiste family), along with and S&P clubs carried the torch of masking into the 1950’s and 60’s, to the Resurrection era of the Baby Doll Ladies, in which Millisia White’s New Orleans Society of Dance continues the once dormant, but beloved practice, and a new generation of satin and sass is born.

 

The shows are true to the music, as well as the vernacular of the day. White states that although it was important to connect with today’s audience, authenticity was a priority.

 

“To me, it was important for people to get the facts. We were determined to remain as authentic as possible,” she said. “We had to include the slang; like in the title (Jass) which was used before the term Jazz was born and words like ‘chippy’. I want this experience to be exciting, but enlightening at the same time.”

 

White explained that the sounds of those times will be accompanied by visual montages from the era, courtesy of DJ Hektik. Some original music by DJ Hektik is incorporated in the show as well.

 

 “We want to encourage people to come back (to the second and third acts) and to continue to learn about the history and the different eras of the masking process,” White says. “We are so satisfied with the project, we hope everyone enjoys and appreciates it the way that we do. This was a growing experience for all of us-it pushed us, artistically. It’s going to be something to experience.”

 

Tickets to the shows can be purchased through eventbrite.com.

 

 

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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