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Friends With a Benefit 

Will Coviello on the Camel Toe Lady Steppers and their female-focused Valentine's fundraiser for the Roots of Music

Valen-Toe-Down

9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11

One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.com

Tickets $15

click to enlarge The Camel Toe Lady Steppers debut a new dance routine at the Valen-Toe-Down. - PHOTO BY ABDUL AZIZ
  • Photo by Abdul Aziz
  • The Camel Toe Lady Steppers debut a new dance routine at the Valen-Toe-Down.

It's not a tableau ball, but the Valen-Toe-Down is a Carnival debut of sorts for the Camel Toe Lady Steppers. The seven-year-old Mardi Gras dance and marching group unveils its 2011 costumes and a new dance performance adaptable for the stage and parading — and reveals it all for a good cause.

  "It's a really great way to get involved in Mardi Gras," says Camel Toe organizer and founding member Beth Manley, who notes that the group attracts members who want to find a creative and affordable alternative to joining a parade krewe.

  At the 2010 event, the Camel Toes debuted Marie Antoinette costumes with towering wigs and glittery pink dresses. This year's theme promises 1980s hair and workout attire, but the official title is a closely held secret until the group hits the street in the Krewe of Muses parade (Feb. 24).

  The Muses parade features several adult women's dance teams. Walking krewes are not new to Carnival, but now there are several all-female, adult marching groups modeled on the traditional baton-twirling and dance-team student groups that march in parades. Among the active troupes are the Pussyfooters, Bearded Oysters and the Muff-A-Lottas — and the all-male 610 Stompers have entered the fray as a choreographed dance squad.

  The Camel Toes originally marched as a Mardi Gras-style ensemble on Halloween in 2003.

  "The Mardi Gras before, we were watching the dance crews, and we thought it would be a fun thing to do as older women," Manley says. "We wanted to get together costumes and work out routines."

  All the stretchy, gold lame two-piece costumes for 10 dancers arrived in one shoebox-sized container, and a group name was soon born.

  On Halloween, the troupe strutted down Frenchmen Street with two accompanying male drummers.

  "By the end of the night, women were repeating our routine back to us," Manley says.

  Four months later, the Camel Toes marched in their first Carnival parade. The membership has grown to more than 50 women, and the group marches in Muses every year. Other appearances have included backing the bands Liquidrone, the Stooges Brass Band and the New Orleans Bingo! Show on stage and at the Voodoo Experience. The Camel Toes have marched in second-line parades, including one held for Antoinette K-Doe, and a local parade prior to the Super Bowl in 2010.

  For the last three years, the Camel Toes' annual pre-Carnival fundraiser also has benefitted the Roots of Music, generating a total of more than $12,000 for the music training program for 9- to 14-year-olds. Women from the Camel Toes also have helped out at the holidays, donating food and gifts to children in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  The Roots of Music band will open the show at One Eyed Jacks. The rest of the lineup features bounce rapper Katey Red, The Local Skank, Mystic Ponies, the Pinettes Brass Band, Fleur de Tease creator Trixie Minx and the dance group Beaver Fever. There also will be a photo booth, an auction and a prize raffle.

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