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Movement restricted - Dancers not benefiting from dancehall's int'l resurgence

Published:Friday | September 2, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Sean Paul
Spice makes her entrance on stage at Reggae Sumfest 2016, Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, with her team in tow. The deejay is credited for taking dancers on tour with her.
International dance choreographer, Tanisha Scott
Dance Xpressionz' Orville Hall (left), Stacy-Ann Facey (centre) and Shelly-Ann Callum in 2009.

Local entertainers have been encouraged to capitalise on the recent resurgence of dancehall in mainstream media overseas. Dancers, too, are being urged to take advantage of the opportunities that come with dancehall being thrust back into the international spotlight. Dancers reveal, however, that it may be easier said than done as there are very few opportunities coming their way, even with the latest resurge

Orville Hall, choreographer and leader of the Dance Xpressionz group, said, "I don't think we get enough credit for the work that we do. In fact, I don't think we get any credit at all for the dancehall moves being used on the international level".

"There is no respect for the creators or the foundation, for where it is coming from, and that is something that needs to be addressed. Our dancers are not being viewed as choreographers, but as mere street dancers who aren't good enough for the international scene."

He went on to say that some of the internationally recognised choreographers using Jamaican culture to propel their careers are hypocrites, as they do nothing for the local dancers when they get the opportunity to help. "Many of these choreographers sneak into Jamaica, come into the parties, stand there with their cameras and videotape things happening in the space and then leave here and go and use the same set of moves and choreograph for people. They are trying to pull the wool over our eyes and use we. When them get the chance, they are not coming to us to help any of us take advantage of these opportunities; they take it all for themselves," Hall said.

Another respected dancer and colleague of Hall agreed. The internationally recognised dancer, who requested anonymity for fear that speaking out may be bad for business, reiterated that international choreographers posing as Jamaicans do nothing to help the local dancers who teach them the craft. "They are hypocrites. A lot of them know us (local dancers), they know our capabilities and they know the struggle, but they won't help when they get the chance," she said.

She explained that the visa issue, though a problem, is not as big as people make it out to be. "They use that as an excuse in the media. A lot of our dancers have visas and are able to travel, but these 'Jamaican-born' choreographers won't look to us when the big opportunities come along. They only want to come to the dances, learn the moves and go back and scrape everything for themselves," she said.

She went on to say that "our artistes who are well known in the international space are also to be blame for the problems we are facing. A lot of their music is fuelled by the dance moves that we create, but do you see any of them taking us on tour or using us to choreograph their music videos?"

"If our own people won't use us, why are these international artistes going to pay us any attention? If all they see coming from artistes like Sean Paul and Shaggy is choreography from the Tanisha Scotts or the Jae Blazes, then those are the people that they will use?"

She went on to thank entertainers like Spice who are giving opportunities to dancers by taking them on the road and exposing them to the wider world, encouraging other artistes to do the same.

The dancers also sought to encourage their colleagues to take the business of dance seriously, as they have to now compete with international choreographers. "I think our dancers need to focus on becoming choreographers. We have to learn how to put routines together that can be put on the international scene, because we have to move from street dancing to competing as choreographers if we want to get these big gigs," Hall explained.

"We have to market ourselves in that light, so that these international artistes will think of using us as the choreographers on their next big project. We have to make these people see that this is the place you come to get the real authentic dancehall moves and choreographers."