Jubilation Fills the Streets on New Orleans' Second Line

Editor's Note: If Cities Could Dance captures dancers' personal stories and their deep-rooted relationships to their communities. Watch a new episode every Tuesday through May 28, 2018.

When the average person thinks of parades in New Orleans, they're probably thinking of the Mardi Gras processions that attract hordes of tourists every Carnival season. But for locals, it's all about the second line, which fill the streets with joyful dancing and live brass bands every Sunday, ten months out of the year.

“You could have six bad days, Monday through Saturday, and get up Sunday and go to a second line, and you’re gonna forget,” says Rodrick “Scubble” Davis, a second line dancer known for his exuberant, athletic footwork. “Just that one day will make your whole week.”

Scubble grew up in the historic African-American neighborhood Tremé, known as the birthplace of jazz and center of second line tradition. Its parades took off after the end of slavery, when African Americans formed Benevolent Societies and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs as a form of mutual social aid. Then, in the early 20th century, second lining merged with New Orleans’ burgeoning jazz culture.

Today, club members and their bands burst out onto the streets often wearing matching, brightly-colored outfits with elaborate hats and headdresses; they wave banners as traffic stops and the crowd parts to make way for their high-stepping dance moves.

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Scubble, a club member with the Tremé Sidewalk Steppers, was introduced to second-lining when he was four years old by his mother, and his love for it grew. “I was always a hyped-kid, couldn’t keep still, and anytime I heard the band, I was moving,” he says.

Watch as Scubble dances his way through historic Tremé, including in front of the popular Candlelight Lounge, and as he joins in a Sunday parade, stopping to show off his moves on raised porches and atop bus stop shelters. The video also features music by New Orleans' Rebirth Brass Band and the Big 6 Brass Band. - Text by Nastia Voynovskaya

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