This isn’t a story about just Casey Greggs, but it begins and ends with her.
Suffice it to say that she was born into the Southern University Band program and spent her childhood tagging alongside the Dancing Dolls. Her grandfather was legendary Southern band director Isaac Greggs.
They were sparkling, beautiful and dazzling, and Greggs knew she wanted to be one of them.
But now she’s facing the end of it all. It’s OK. Really, it is.
Greggs realized her dream, but now she has another.
“I’m ready to be a kindergarten teacher,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with children.”
She said this on the Friday before the first Monday of classes in Southern University’s fall semester. She’s the co-captain of Southern’s dance line this year; Seaera Cole is the captain.
Both are seniors. Greggs is majoring in elementary education; Cole is majoring in sociology.
And both not only are planning out the routines and events for the 2012 football season but are looking at life after the Dancing Dolls.
Options have expanded after the 2011 season that saw the Dancing Dolls perform not only on their campus turf in Mumford Stadium but with pop icon Madonna at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
“That was an amazing experience,” Cole said. “Madonna was so down to earth, and her team was great to work with. They gave us advice about things we can do with dance performance later. They told us about how we can go on tours, and it’s one of the things I would like to do after graduation. I’d like to continue with dance, and the possibility is there.”
Other 2011 Dancing Dolls veterans also are interested in the possibility. Cole has talked about it with them.
But they all know that there’s plenty of time to think about the future. The priority now is performing with the Southern University Marching Band, known as the Human Jukebox, in the football season opener.
That will be on Saturday, Sept. 1, when the Jaguars take on the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
The Human Jukebox will march halftime at that game, and make no mistake, the Dancing Dolls consider themselves just as much a part of the band as any member who plays an instrument.
This is especially true for Greggs. She rehearsed on this last day of pre-season band camp with her fellow dance line members inside the band hall building named for her grandfather.
Isaac Greggs’ name is legendary not only on campus but in university band circles. He served as Southern’s band director from 1969 to 2006. So, naturally Casey Greggs grew up in and around the program.
“I played clarinet in elementary school,” Greggs said. “My grandfather made sure I was going to learn music, and that added to my band experience. But I wanted to be a Dancing Doll. I took some classes at Peggy’s Dance Studio when I was younger, and I was on the dance squad at Southern Lab. It’s something I thought about 24/7. I couldn’t wait to be Dancing Doll.”
She smiled. There was a tinge of sadness in her voice.
“You know, I’ve been around the band for so long,” she said. “My grandfather let me ride with the Dancing Dolls to all the away games, and when the alumni see me now, the say, ‘There’s little Casey.’ It’s been an honor to be a Dancing Doll. I’ve been in the family for so long.”
The 50 dancers who showed up for pre-season band camp were cut down to the squad’s standard number of 11. Some of the 2012 squad are returning members from last year. Others were members of Southern’s basketball dance line, the Golden Blues.
Still, others were dancers who joined the Dancing Dolls in the Super Bowl halftime performance on Feb. 5.
“We had to recruit other dancers to dance with us in that show,” Cole said. “We have only 11 on our squad, and they needed 20. ”
So, ladies and gentlemen, the squad you’ll be watching during Southern’s halftime shows will be made up of the dancers that performed on national television with an international pop star. Better yet, the Dancing Dolls executed one of their own routines during that performance. Madonna and her crew discovered it on YouTube.
And, well, the rest is history. The Dancing Dolls’ history. No, it’s more important than that.
It’s part of the Southern University Marching Band’s history.
“We are definitely a part of the band,” Cole said.
A statement that makes Lawrence Jackson proud. He’s the director of bands at Southern University, and he finds this time of year is both intense and exciting.
“We’ve been working hard in the pre-season, and our members are pretty much in place,” he said. “The membership has evened itself out, because most of the people who would have been cut have dropped out already. They couldn’t last the whole two weeks.”
And with that done, Lawrence now can tackle the band’s busy schedule in coming weeks, which includes performances at the first New Orleans Saints home game and L’Auberge Casino’s grand opening, as well as the regular football season.
He’s also looking ahead to the Atlanta Classic in September, where a bevy of rap stars will be performing with the band.
And as music flowed from the dance studio down the hall from his office, Jackson couldn’t help but smile.
“The Dancing Dolls are ready,” he said. “They had a great experience last year, and they’ll be ready this year.”
Joining Cole and Greggs on the squad are seniors Chauncey McCoy of Monroe and Prentice Garrett of Atlanta, Ga.; juniors April Rollins of Opelousas, Anngelica Taylor of Houston and Beatriz Alfaro of Houston; sophomores Josie Young of Shreveport and Kayla Vaughn of Baton Rouge; and freshmen Kayla Pittman of Bogalusa and Danielle Linkford of Monroe.
“Our goal in the new year is to keep the tradition alive,” Cole said.
And one way they’ll do this is allow everyone’s voice in the choreography. Suggestions are welcome from all the squad members.
It’s a part of the success that won them a spot in the Super Bowl. And it’s a part of the success that just may further the dance careers of some of squad members.
Though the glitz and glamor is appealing, Greggs will take a different path after graduation, applying the same dedication and discipline she learned during a lifetime with the band and dance squad to a career of teaching kindergarteners.
And perhaps laying a foundation for future band members and Dancing Dolls along the way.