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J-Setting is a highly stylized modern lead and follow style of hip hop dance, characterized by cheerleading style sharp movements to an eight-beat count music. Popular in southern U.S. African American gay clubs, like the vogue style before it, it became popular by exposure in a pop music video, this time the 2008 Beyoncé Knowles single "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."
In 1970, former majorette Shirley Middleton became troupe leader of the Jackson State University cheerleading group, The Prancing Jaycettes. Middleton wanted something different, and so threw away their batons, and began dancing in formation. Based on a classical cheerleader eight-beat style, the signature thrusts, pumps, and high kicks were developed into a lead-and-follow "wave" through the troupe.
However, the style was strictly reserved for women only until 1997, when male troupe baton twirling member DeMorris Adams was asked to fill in for an injured female troupe member. After this, although the performing troupe was still female, the crowd supporters started to grow from the college's gay community.
In the early 1990s, young gay men brought the style back to their home towns, and the distinct and often intricate style that is now J-Setting developed in nightclubs like Club City Lights in Jackson, Mississippi; Incognito, Allusions, and 901 in Memphis; and Club 708 in Atlanta.
J-Setting gained popularity in part because it was sharp, and due to its lead and follow nature, meant another dancer could intimate interest through following someone else's lead.
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J-Setting has now developed into a culture, with a distinct dress style. There are now J-Setting troupes, where groups of young gay men imitate cheerleaders with co-ordinated uniforms of sequined one- and two-piece leotards, with long flowing capes, sheer stockings and white marching boots. At gay cultural events, squads of J-Setters compete in dance-offs.
Some of the most popular J-Setting teams include: Jackson's Male Prancing J-Settes (MPJ); Memphis Elite; Atlanta’s J-Phi; Dallas Diamonds; Baton Rouge Xtreme; Nashville’s Music City All-Starz; and Grambling, La.’s X-Men.
In 2008, Beyoncé Knowles wanted to emphasize her duality as a singer and performer, and spotlight her more aggressive alter ego Sasha Fierce. It was hence agreed to release a double-sided single: the slow-ballad "If I Were a Boy," and the distinctly dance-oriented "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."
Video director Jake Nava spent the majority of the video budget on shooting "If I Were a Boy," confident that the production team could create something unique in the same black and white style in which the first video was shot. According to Nava, the styling was inspired by a Vogue photo shoot. Choreographed by Frank Gatson, he called in J-Setting specialist JaQuel Knight, who created an intricate J-Setting style shot in a simple plain-white infinity cove studio, with Knowles and her co-dancers dressed in simple black leotards, tights and high-heels.
The video gained great popularity, although some J-Setting fans[who?] were disappointed to later find that portions of the choreography and video borrowed liberally from Gwen Verdon’s 1960s dance to Pat Williams’ Mexican Breakfast, as choreographed by Broadway legend Bob Fosse.