Before you meet the King of Spanish Town on March 1, you will become very familiar with the fun-loving dancing krewe, The Prancing Babycakes.
The 35-member, all female dance troupe has been marching in the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade since 2008. It is the last krewe to appear in the festivities just before the King’s float.
The Prancing Babycakes was founded by Erin “Baby Ruthless” Rolfs and Aimee “Famous Amos” St. Amant in response to the popularity of New Orleans Mardi Gras walking krewes, the Pussyfooters and The Camel Toe Lady Steppers. Now in their seventh year, The Prancing Babycakes have dominated the walking krewe scene in their black and rouge costumes with matching white marching boots — all complete with a legend and an alter ego for each member.
Each Babycake’s alter ego allows her to be a prancer while maintaining a life as a professional, mother and/or life partner. Each dancer also has a M.O.M. or Man on March, who walks along the periphery carrying her provisions and keeping the crowd at bay. These two facts or rules of the krewe allow the women to loosen up and even play make-believe.
Adding to the make-believe is the legend of each dancer’s boots. According to Rolfs, the legends add to the enchantment of the alter egos. For instance, Baby Ruthless’s boots were fashioned from Eddie Murphy’s couch after Rick James ruined it with his own boots. As a result, they are capable of enabling the wearer with dancing powers reminiscent of ‘80s pop funk videos.
Before the legend of the boots, however, there is the legend of The Prancing Babycakes.
Baby Ruthless and Famous Amos met at downtown bar Red Star one evening and after each woman refused to stop dancing after closing time and were forcibly removed from the dance floor.
“On a street curb in downtown BR, between the hours of two and four a.m., we bonded over our mutual heartache, a pain that we carried with us when the dancing stopped, a burden that had no other relief than more dancing,” Rolfs said. “Our sorrow was so intense that it beckoned the Holy Prancing Trinity, the ghosts of Bob Fosse, Patrick Swayze and Michael Jackson. They flew across the Mississippi River and hovered before us there on Laurel Street and they told us to build a congregation. They said if we build it — we would prance forever — or at least during Mardi Gras.”
Since its inception, the troupe has become so popular that Rolfs said new member requests are often turned down with only two new women added each year.
“We get lots of Facebook requests from women who want to join the group and we are very, very slow to add new people, because we don’t have any rules or reliable structure, so we have to do things in the easiest way possible,” Rolfs said. “I would love to see more groups like this pop up. You don’t have to be a Babycake; you can create your own bad ass marching group … And we will subsequently destroy it with our epic hip thrusts and jazz hands.”
Creator of the Babycakes’ epic hip thrusts and jazz hands, choreographer and founding member Lesley Kernan said only about five of the dancers have danced professionally. She said the skill level leaves room for more choreographed improv than actual dance moves and makes way for more fun and less stress on the parade route.
“It’s fun and exciting and the troupe is not based on can-you-dance,” Kernan said. “Part of the experience is the girls coming together from different groups and areas. Some of us are in our early twenties and some of us are in our forties, and so it’s a nice little mix of girls who may not normally have time to come together and do this. It’s having fun, getting dressed and being creative, and a lot of times there will be choreography where you can move the way you want to move.”
Kernan said she is encouraging to all of the women to ensure that no one is self conscious about learning dance moves. The troupe prepares two new dances each year, adding back an old favorite based on the group’s skill in the new moves and desire to add on to the current year’s routine. Kernan said the women really challenge themselves yearly, with some even learning things about their bodies they didn’t know before joining the Babycakes.
Chelsea “Charleston Chew” Harris is a veteran Babycake. Her legend states that she is known for her head spinning break dancing moves, unbeatable Michael Jackson karaoke performances and stunning boots once owned by the talented Taylor Dayne.
“My Babycake persona is very similar to my everyday self — I’m a perfectionist, but I love to have fun,” Harris said. “Being around this group of women is empowering. Just like any other woman, my confidence sometimes takes a hit, but being with this particular group helps restore that confidence in myself, allowing me to shine the way I should. This group sees the beautiful inside and out in each of its members, therefore my alter ego means I rock a skimpy pair of shorts and shake my thang like it ain’t nobody’s ‘bidness.’”
Harris said the most important thing about The Prancing Babycakes is their camaraderie. She said they support and compliment one another while throwing the usual female competition out of the window and replacing it with whiskey-laced hugs.
Ashley Womble who dances by the name of “Womble Womble” said on a regular day she’s just on a mama, but on Babycake day, she’s nobody’s mama.
The legend of “Womble Womble” is a play on words based on the 1999 song “Wobble Wobble” by the 504 Boyz. It states that she is aged half past 30 with the accomplishment of having mastered the art of the Babycake body roll.
“I’m a crafty girl,” Womble said. “My heart speaks through my hands — I make things, lots of things. I will keep making things ‘til my fingers fall off, then I will grab my glue gun, reattach those babies and make more things.”
Womble said before the Babycakes, she had never danced before.
“I actually busted out laughing when they asked me to join. I’m so glad I said yes, it is a blast,” Womble said. “I love seeing the faces in the crowd. I love seeing everyone having a great time.”
Womble said in preparation for the three to four hour parade, she does lots of squats for all the “droppin’ and poppin’ in the routines. During the parade, she, much like the other Babycakes, said she thinks about the bathroom because according to Harris, the ladies enjoy Jello shots along the route.
As a Prancing Babycake, Rolfs said the ladies do not take themselves too seriously and its shows on the parade route. Each year, these ladies lace up their white dancing boots and prance their way through Spanish Town affording parade-goers a great opportunity to learn some new moves and have a little more fun.