Dance Xpressionz’s dancehall musical makes international début
Theatre arts group Dance Xpressionz is feeling overwhelmed following the international début of their dancehall musical, From Den Til Now.
The production, written and directed by company head Orville Hall, was performed in Berlin, Germany, on May 25 and 29, as part of the CDC Festival.
“Overwhelming, for me, is still an understatement because persons who thought they knew certain things about Jamaica, even where dancehall is concerned, got a chance to see traditional Jamaica,” Hall told The Gleaner. “They got a chance to see Jamaica just after Independence, in terms of dress code and mannerisms and the music and the dance. It was overwhelming for we, just fi see how people made noise in the auditorium and how people behaved.”
Sunday’s performance featured a special stage show segment with Darrio, dancer-turned-artiste Crazy Hype and Xpressionz member Sashi/Dogbed, who performed his Jamaica Festival Song Competition number Love Jamaica My Land.
From Den Til Now premièred in Jamaica in December 2018 as a novelty in popular culture and local theatre, chronicling the history of Jamaican music, folklore and dance forms woven with original poems and dialogue. Hall said they were set to perform it in Germany in 2020 before the disruption of the pandemic.
DELAYED BY PANDEMIC
“We had already gotten the visas, and all the paperwork was done, but when the pandemic hit, then everything was shut down. The promoters kept in touch with us and told us that the persons who came on board as sponsors really believe in it, and if there is any easing up of the pandemic that they would still consider to do it.”
That opportunity came earlier this year, and Dance Xpressionz landed in Germany on May 11 to also conduct individual classes. The production featured Hall and other core members Shelly, Shanice and Sashi/Dogbed, but further included Kimiko Versatile as well as Ghanaian dancers E-Flex and Yoofi Greene and Spain-based dancer Carolyn Gonzalez. Among the changes was an Afro-diasporic adaptation of the musical, delving into African traditional dance forms, namely azonto, which was popular in Ghana during the ‘90s.
The international première and feedback are rewarding in other ways, as the production did not receive intense support in Jamaica.
“Shelly Xpressionz has a famous saying that nothing happens before the time, and the fact that we’re doing this now is the perfect timing,” he said. “When we were in Jamaica, it was an out-of-pocket production. I don’t know what the issue was why sponsors didn’t jump on where this production is concerned. I was really expecting sponsors to be coming at us because of the type of production. It is something that speaks to Jamaica holistically but to see we’d have to step out of our country to get people so entertained by this production is a blessing fi we, and it is even more heartwarming for us because Jamaica is celebrating 60 years of Independence and we are performing the first-ever dancehall musical in Germany to help celebrate this diamond jubilee.”
Hall hopes to replicate the show in Jamaica with added dancers through the help of sponsors.
“We’re strongly hoping that the Jamaican Government and some of our local sponsors will jump on board to help us move forward. We haffi big up the culture ministry who endorsed our trip as well from 2020, but we’re moving forward and want to restage it in Jamaica for persons to see.”