Courtesy of BSE

The New Black Student Majorette Ensemble aims to bring a new art form to campus.

March 20, 2023

New Black Student Majorette Ensemble Aims to Break Historical Barriers, Empower Women of Color

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Cornell University is home to over 1,000 different clubs and student organizations. However, none of these organizations personified the art and dancing style of majorette until now.

Beginning in New Orleans in the 1960s, the majorette dance style became famous for its high-energy movements infusing jazz, West African and hip-hop dance styles. Majorette dance teams often perform alongside a marching band, flipping and showcasing other gymnast moves in glittery outfits.

The new Black Student Majorette Ensemble announced its founding on Cornell’s campus this semester. The ensemble, which goes by the acronym BSE, was instituted to provide a helpful and educational space for women of color to feel represented on campus through the majorette art form.

Members of the BSE said their mission is to educate Cornellians on the majorette dance style and empower students with the confidence to be themselves and move freely. 

BSE President Aissata Maiga ’25 described her background as a majorette.

“I would say most of my majorette experience is self-taught. I am from New York City, and majorette is typically used in the South,” Maiga said. “However, I still appreciate the art and think it should be shared with the whole school. So we decided to create a club that embodies that.”

Maiga explained the challenges that BSE encountered in the process of launching the club.

“The biggest issue was finding a space to perform and convincing the athletics department or others in charge of these performances to join us,” Maiga said.

Maiga expressed that the mission of BSE involves the inclusion of Black culture into white spaces by incorporating African American talent and representation at Cornell events. According to Maiga, there is currently a lack of Black art displayed during homecoming, which is something BSE aims to change.

BSE Vice President Muhamadou Jobarteh ’25 said the support they received from the Cornell athletics department has been extremely helpful to getting the club started. 

“They were extremely supportive — 1,000 percent. They can’t wait for us to perform. We had to reach out to them, and anything that we said, they made sure was finalized,” Jobarteh said.

According to members of BSE, uniforms play a significant role in majorette ensembles, and BSE’s lack of uniforms due to inadequate funding is a current barrier.

“Getting our uniforms is also a battle we are figuring out because we will not perform without uniforms,” Maiga said. “[Uniforms] are something we need to not only legitimize our team but also make sure that all of Cornell knows who we are.”

Nonetheless, BSE remains hopeful as they reveal their plans to work through funding issues, including starting a GoFundMe and plans to host open workshops for the Cornell community in order to speak more ineptly on the experiences of Black women in America.

While they experienced unexpected obstacles, BSE has found confidence through the success of their auditioning process. 

“We had 40 applicants and accepted 12 dancers. We were excited because our [recruiting] promotions weren’t as great as we wanted them to be,” Maiga said. “We are still learning the process of running a club, so we are making many mistakes, but we had a ton of auditionees.”

BSE freshman representative Aleeka Prophet ’26 reflected on BSE’s impact on the cultural community and Cornell. 

“With being a freshman representative, you get to see how you can also have an opportunity to be a part of a club and do something meaningful for the community and Cornell, being that BSE is a club that wants to bring young women together and build a sisterhood, a bond and the ability to express ourselves through a form of dance,” Prophet said.

Erica Yirenkyi ’25 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

Clarification, March 21, 9:41 p.m.: This article has been edited to clarify the mission of BSE and their plans to host fundraising events.