POSTED Thu. Dec 4, 2014

Creative Culture

(Gris Gris) Strutting Their Stuff

I am not the most objective author for this piece. I featured Gris Gris Strut in my musical travel book, New Orleans: the Underground Guide (LSU Press) with a glorious photo of Cherie Pitre and ten gold and black honies all leaping into the air together. I later asked Pitre to bring a truncated version of her dance troupe to the book’s release party — but near the event’s end she busted in through the club’s front door followed by a huge ragtag Bywater brass band and her full cadre of dancers. The Gris Gris Strut filled the room with shiny bodies and legs and arms, all swinging to their brass version of the Jackson 5’s, “I Want You Back.”

By that time, the Gris Gris strut had begun incorporating into their band kids from the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods. This year they are finally looking to expand and raise funds to broaden their inclusion of teens and pre-teens into Gris Gris Strut’s dance and new flag teams as well.

The heart of the Gris Gris Strut, its dancers, performs in a style distinctly different from other similar, all-female Mardi Gras troupes. Pitre calls her signature hard-hitting, full body style, “forward-motion choreography.”

“We do full choreographed routines,” Pitre explains. “Most of the dancing krewes are doing eight-counts that they repeat over and over as they march. They may have seven or eight of them, and they’re very upper body oriented, much more low impact — as it should be. But we are doing high impact dance routines with kicks and leaps and jumps. It’s crazy.”

Pitre adds, “I don’t believe in a rest beat.”

The Gris Gris Strut was born seven years ago via a commission from the Krewe of Thoth, who had admired Pitre’s work as the leader of the Ninth Ward Marching Band’s first dance troupe. “The Krewes of Thoth and Druid had been looking for me to start dance troupes for them. But basically Thoth created us. Thoth gave me three weeks to create the Gris Gris Strut troupe from scratch.” This coming Mardi Gras, Gris Gris Strut will toss their signature “Gris Gris bag” throws to a soundtrack of Stevie Wonder and Sugarhill Gang, while marching with Thoth, Druids and Krewe d’etat, as well as Sparta and King Arthur.

This year’s GGS dance ensemble will include18 professional dancers all versed in ballet leaps, jumps, high kicks and gymnastics. “The level of skill goes up every year,” says Pitre. “And they have professional attitudes.”

And now they’re looking for some younger folks to join them. Gris Gris Strut and friends will perform from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 at Cafe Istanbul (2372 St. Claude Ave.) to raise funds and recruit members into its newly launched Gris Gris Strut Junior Corps program for dancers and musicians ages 12-17.

The GGS Junior Corps unofficially formed around pre-teen neighborhood brothers Frank and Taj, better known as the ragtag rock marching band The Bywater Boys, famous for practicing their music on Chartres St. outside of Elizabeth’s Restaurant. “They kind of found us,” Pitre chuckles. “Frank plays snare, and Taj plays cymbals. They’ve been in the band for three years now, and their parents come to the rehearsals.”

Frank and Taj enlisted their friend Greshiren, who started out playing trombone with Gris Gris Strut’s brass band, but Greshiren now plays the snare drum. Greshiren now plays snare in his school band, but his mother credits Gris Gris Strut with getting him that far. “He didn’t know how to play anything,” says his mother Charlene Caul. “He’s been with them now since he was eight years old. He’s 15 now. They taught him everything he knows. I didn’t know he had that talent till he got with Gris Gris Strut.”

Pitre’s son Cypress plays bass drum to round out their four-part drum line. “We can’t have enough programs for kids in this city,” says Pitre, “But dancing with live music is in itself very rare. At the end of the parade you get to say, ‘I just performed, backed by a live band, for a million people.”

Pitre hopes that eventually, marching with Gris Gris Strut will qualify as the type of professional dance experience that would help kids get into NOCCA. “I believe we need to saturate this city with programs to elevate our youth, provide solid role models, and give them the opportunity to learn and grow their art,” says Pitre.

No experience is necessary to sign up for the seven-week intensive training program, which starts in December. All young dancers will be taught one-on-one in a professional dance studio, while each musician in junior corps will work next to an adult musician. All the young dancers and musicians will be given the chance to march in at least one Mardi Gras parade. Youth sign-up forms for both dance and music will be available at the event and at www.grisgrisstrut.com

Gris Gris Strut Junior Corps Fundraiser Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 at Cafe Istanbul (2372 St. Claude Ave.). Featuring Blind Texas Marlin, Luke Allen, DJ Fayard, Gris Gris Strut and Dancing Man 504. Food and beverages by Atchafalaya. All inclusive tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children at the door or advanced tickets of $15 adults and $7 for children are available by contacting grisgrisstrut@yahoo.com

Image by Zack Smith.

POSTED Dec 14, 2018

Atmosphere

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED May 10, 2017

Creative Culture

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers,…....
CONTINUE

Written by DAVID JOHNSON
POSTED Dec 23, 2016

Atmosphere

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 21, 2016

Creative Culture

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

Imagine doing something you love for seventy years. Many people aren’t lucky enough to live that long, much less put their heart and soul into their passion projects…....
CONTINUE

Written by FRITZ ESKER
PAGE

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

    WWNO

    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

    NOMA

    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

    X

    Thanks.

    was added to your favorites.

    VIEW YOUR PROFILE

     


    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook