BY SIMONE MORGAN——
DANCEHALL music would not be complete without dancers. Inner-city choreographers like Bogle were as popular as deejays Bounty Killer and Beenie Man back in the 1990s.
In recent years, names like Ice, Ovamarz, Ravers Clavers, MOB, and Bermuda Squad followed in Bogle’s footsteps and became easily identifiable in the dancehall. But there are some in the movement such as Dance Xpressionz’ Orville Hall and Marlon ‘Ovamarz’ Hardy, who do not think Jamaicans are appreciative of the dancer’s contribution to a multimillion-dollar industry.
Top: Dance Xpressions led by Orville Hall. Bottom:… Inner-city choreographers like Bogle were as popular as deejays Bounty Killer and Beenie Man in the 1990s
Hall is appealing to the Jamaican government to play their part in promoting the island’s dancehall dancers, given their international appeal.
“Dancehall music and dances is taken on by almost everyone in Europe and Russia. I have witnessed it!” Hall told the Jamaica Observer. “The dance history and culture is so rich that the Japanese is teaching dancehall in Japan. Imagine that,” he said.
“They visit the island, learn our moves, and then make a lot of money by what they learn from us. Dancers need to learn the language of dance as would a musician does to his music,” Hall stated.
Ovamarz agreed: “We are not getting our fair share and we play a major role in the dancehall. I must say that some of our dancers are not dedicated and are only performing for the hype and not from the heart.”
Hall is no stranger on the dance floor. In 1998, while a full-time student at Excelsior Community College, he conducted classes in which he taught popular dancehall moves.
“Myself, Patsy Rickets and Kenny Salmon were responsible for writing the course for the Urban Contemporary Folk (dancehall course),” he recalled.
In 2000, Hall graduated from the institution but went back one year later, this time earning an Associate Degree in the Performing Arts. Hall said he stayed with the community college for several years, writing skits and getting the school involved in Jamaica Cultural Development Commission activities.
During his time at Excelsior, Hall formed an in-school dance group called Theatre Expression which evolved into Dance Xpressionz. Founding members were Shelly-Ann Callum and Stacey-Ann Facey who were later joined by Kevaughn Scott and Safiya Mackinson.
Since their inception, the five-member group have performed at venues islandwide and on the international circuit including the United States and Europe.
It was in that period that dancehall really started taking off in the United States, with Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Lady Say, Shaggy, and Sean Paul all scoring hit songs. Bogle and his flamboyant Black Roses Crew were also hot, so hot that Beenie Man (World Dance) and Buju (Bogle) paid homage in song.
Four years ago when sprinter Usain Bolt won the sprint double at the Olympics in Beijing, China, he saluted Jamaican dancers after each victory by performing the Gully Creepa, made popular by Ice.
Such recognition has not earned dancers any respect, Hall believes.
“We are not even close to getting the recognition that we deserve. Artists sometimes take a dancer for granted as some will perform free just to get in the spotlight,” he said. “However, in order to achieve recognition, dancers need to educate themselves holistically about dancing then choose the genre that appeals to them.”
He noted that dancing is also about professionalism, presentation and versatility. He says his group, while it embraces the dancehall, are versed in the tango from Argentina and Brazilian salsa.
“Dancers must aim at being marketable to not only corporate Jamaica but the entire world,” Hall said. “We have to bear in mind that we are not dancing for ourselves and for leisure only. If the aim is to just make dancing a career, we have to remember that our employers will have visions of what they want, so we should be able to adjust to their desires,” he added.