USC’s first-ever majorette dance team, The Cardinal Divas, making moves amid backlash


A new dance style has made its way to the University of Southern California, and while the dancers have faced some backlash online, they’re excited to bring their fire and diversity to campus as the school’s first majorette dance team.

The Cardinal Divas of SC were co-founded this year by Princess Isis Lang. They specialize in the dance style known as “j-setting,” popularized by the Jackson State University marching band and traditionally found only at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Still, Lang is excited to bring the culture to USC, a sentiment helped by a huge outpouring of support on social media.

“The new Majorette team is going crazy on the internet right now,” Lang said on Wednesday. “This is the perfect way to showcase and uplift Black dancers, Black performers and Black joy overall.”

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A video that has since gone viral shows the Cardinal Divas playing SC’s first game against Fresno State on Sept. 17.

“It really feels like a dream,” she said. “I didn’t expect it all to happen so quickly.”

Flaunting a style of dance they say none of the other teams on campus have, the Cardinal Divas have left the realm of convenience and taken their moves to a PWI, or predominantly white institution.

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“I think something that majorettes have that other styles don’t have is that we’re listening to the band and it comes from a place of feeling,” said Jada Walker, one of the Cardinal Divas.

Jai Robinson, the team’s choreographer, explained the J-Setting as a style that “started at the HBCUs in the 1960s and is a blend of high-step marching band with West African jazz aesthetics and hip-hop alongside modern.”

Despite the support they’ve found online, they’ve faced some negative comments, particularly from people who don’t believe the dance style belongs in a school where the student population is less than 6% Black.

“We’ve had a lot of backlash and controversy about bringing the HBCU culture into a PWI,” Robinson said. “But I believe as black students, we deserve a space where we can feel comfortable and bring our culture to bear.”

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“Not everything was positive, but for the most part we stayed positive,” Walker said at a practice session on Wednesday. “I like to take negativity and use it as motivation.”

With the Cardinal Divas planning to play every opportunity that comes their way, the end goal is for their team to land on the field at one of the Trojans’ home games.

“I’m hoping that my choreography will come out onto the field,” Robinson said.

“Eventually, fingers crossed, we’ll make it onto the field and with the band,” Lang said. “That’s exactly why I came to USC, not just to study musical theater, but to be a black woman and really take the black community with me wherever I go.”





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