Why you should care

It’s an everyman sort of activity that’s just plain fun. No pretensions here. Ugly is OK. Still sexy.

In 2012, 200 hopeful men put their pride aside and their shorts on and turned out for the auditions of New Orleans’ hottest all-male dance troupe, the 610 Stompers. My friend, we’ll call him John for his own protection, was among them. After a long afternoon of sashays and splits, only 18 earned their red sateen jackets.

Poor John. “They said they liked how I moved on the floor, they liked my alligator. But I think I messed up some of the steps, and I probably could have been a little more flashy. It was harder than I thought it would be, and I just got nervous.”

So is the fate of the modern New Orleans man, striving to be a part of the group voted this year’s Best Mardi Gras Walking/Dance Group.

Asked if they perform sober, their executive director responds, “Rarely.”

“We don’t want men who want to dance, we want men who have to dance,” says Mont “Big Bird” Creamer, the executive director of the group. “You gotta be able to nail the dance moves, you gotta be able to be taught, and you gotta seem fun.”

One category included this year on the judges’ score sheet: “Do you want to have a beer with this guy?”

So who are these ordinary men with extraordinary moves? Stompers run the gamut in terms of age, from 23 to 66, and are a mix of native and non-native New Orleanians from a variety of professions, although they skew thick, white and hairy. And the raucous moves? Well, judge for yourself:

Founded in 2009 and named after Interstate Highway 610, which loops through the city, the 610 Stompers launched themselves in time for the 2010 Saints Super Bowl Championship parade.

Each year, the real show comes around February, during Mardi Gras season, when the group stomps and sways through the city with the parade. This year it plans to perform in five parades, each lasting hours and covering miles, which means hours of flair-filled high kicks and hip rolls, all while gliding and tapping in gold shoes.

Asked if they perform sober, Creamer responds, “Rarely.”

The Stompers receive a steady flow of four or five requests per week to work local events.

Although the group’s product may seem to be jokey fun, it also raised $35,610 for the Autism Society this year.

Creamer says the goal is to have an even greater impact by going national. In 2011, the group performed during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and in 2013 during the Kentucky Derby Pegasus Parade.

The Stompers receive a steady flow of four or five requests per week to work local events, but turn down many. “The dancers are all volunteers with 9-to-5 jobs,” Creamer says, “so even if we get the best event in the world, if it’s at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, we can’t do it.”

Still, those sweatbands and tube socks act as a siren song for the members. “We have a hard time saying no,” he confessed to OZY.

A few months ago, I caught up with a single girlfriend of mine, who also happens to be a stunningly beautiful lawyer in New Orleans. She told me about a recent date she’d been on and how she really liked the guy.

“It was great,” she said, “but I think he’s out of my league.”

Dubious and sputtering, I asked how it could be possible for any guy to be out of her league.

“Well,” she said, “he’s a 610 Stomper.”

“… S**t,” was all I could muster.

Only in a city like New Orleans do sweaty men dancing in ill-fitting baby blue shorts reach the highest echelons of popularity and sex appeal.

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