Second Line History

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“The Second Line”

A uniquely New Orleans tradition, “The Second Line” began as a street dance during New Orleans Jazz Funerals. Traditionally, a brass band played dirges as the funeral party processed to the burial site. Then, on the way back, spirited music was played, as part of a celebration of the life of the deceased.

The unique dance was made up of a second line of people, following after the band and the families of the deceased. When the brass band would change its tune to an up-tempo “street beat” that begins the celebration of life, the mourners and people gathered raise their tear-soaked hankies and begin to dance, doing what is now termed the “Second Line”. Today the Second Line is danced at weddings, parties, conventions, and even the Governor’s Inaugural Ball!

The leader of the dance carries a decorated parasol and guides their guests in a large circle around the room and often into the street. At the trumpet’s first call, napkins are removed from tables or souvenir handkerchiefs appear. These are put to use by the guests, who wave them in the air to the rhythm as the Second Liners step to the music.

So when you feel the second line coming, wave your hankie in the air, dance to the music and follow the umbrella!