Jamaica Dance Culture
In the Jamaican culture, the dance is a very predominant force in all almost every activity that takes place on the island. This has been evident from the days of the ancestors to present times. The early Christians traditions are a big influence on the movements and rhythms, this folklore could be seen at the holidays and religious celebrations of the Christians. If you trace the Jamaican cultural heritage there is so much evidence that points to movements that were present from earlier times. However, today the dances seem to extend only to the music now, especially the dancehall styles that are very popular worldwide.
The Jamaicans are known for their eagerness to dance. Some of dances found in Jamaica combine the techniques of the Africans and Europeans to make one of kind art forms. The Jamaican dances includes the “bruckins”, “jonkonnu”, “gerreh”, “ettu” and the “dinki mini”. All of which represents some form of celebration before and after independence.
Different dances in the religious communities have influenced the religious music in Jamaica. There are dances such as the Rastafari, Kumina and Pocomania. The chanting and the drums are usual accompaniments to these dances. The songs also would have some form of singing or other musical elements and are normally performed at the all night services and vigils.
In the Jamaican music history, this art form has always been performed alongside the entertainment and work songs. During the days of slavery, these work songs was an integral part of slaves daily plantation lives, they would gossip and pass message to each other while they work. This was a means of lessening the burdens that they were facing. These songs also follow the similar form of the call and response songs that are of the African customs. The children also had their form of entertainment in the form of ring games, but these were not normally use with musical instruments.
The African dances include the social and religious and these are well known in Jamaican folklore. The religious dances includes myal, pocomania and kumina, they are the fundamental parts that are involved in the worship ceremonies. Their main focus is to bring dancers within the spiritual sphere and intensifies the eagerness for possession.
This culture still exists in the Maroon Town areas where they try to maintain this African tradition. The social dances include the Quadrille, Ettu and Maypole (this was an original religious dance but is now used as a social). When you really dig deep into the cultural heritage of the dance you will identify that are over 30 dances that are unique to Jamaica.
The kumina dance is viewed as the core of African philosophy. It is practiced in the parishes of St. Mary and St. Catherine, but more popularly in St. Thomas. Ettu is primarily danced in the parish of Hanover. Quadrille is a ballroom set dance originating in the courts of Europe, danced during slavery.
During Christmas season, the jonkonnu and hosay dance takes place, although they are not of the religious practices. There is a Caribbean East Indian festival at this time that has hosay dance as a part of the celebrations.
Jamaica also has a dance theatre that is very important in keeping the cultural heritage in existence. There are some popular Jamaicans who help to nurture this and have strong influences in the arts; they are Eddy Thomas, Edna Manley, Rex Nettleford and Olive Lewin. In the 1950’s a National Dance Theatre Company was formed in Jamaica.
Dancing is a fundamental part of the Jamaican people and their everyday life; it can be referred to as the heart of the people that never stop to dance. Dancing is done everywhere and is an important part of all occasions, whether it is cultural celebrations, worship, social jamborees or formal events. But what would the dancers do if music was not available.
The music is the central part of the Jamaican dance culture and there are various music genres with dances for every rhythm. Once the music is playing there is a contagious vibe in the air you are moving whether you want to or not, hands clapping and hips gyrating.
Dance forms are shaped from the African and European influences of the cultural heritage.
These styles has evolved from the dances that the slaves use to do during the Christmas season (jonkonnu), the moves they made before emancipation from slavery (bruckins), the independence dance (Ska) to the present dances of today that are done with such vibrancy in the dancehalls.
During the mento era in Jamaica, the European dances such as quadrille and maypole were danced; the people add their own mix to the styles and make it true Jamaicans. A similar thing can be said to the other dance moves from the African heritage and traces can be found in the modern dances style in Jamaica today.
Dance moves have taken on several forms in terms of the speed at which the dancers sway to the rhythm. The Ska genre was of fast tempo and required fast movements, then the Rocksteady and the Reggae music required slower speeds and then there comes the dancehall music with it heavy beats and faster tempo and the moves changed and requires quick movements. The dancehall, clubs, and street parties like the “passa passa” are the place where a lot of these dance moves are formed.
Sometimes it gets confusing to keep abreast of the various new dances that come at you in rapid succession. These styles are creative and they all create an impact as soon as they are introduced on the dance scenes, there are fun, exciting, exhilarating and entertaining. Some of the popular dances today are “hot wuk”, “dutty wine”, “beyonce wine”, “gully greep”, “bogle”, “tek weh yuself” and many others
There are some organizations in Jamaica that helps to nurture and keep the traditions alive. They are the National Dance Theater Company, The Edna Manley School of Dance and others. They help to groom persons who have the talent and have shows that are held frequently to give persons an outlet to show their talent.
This does not include only Jamaican traditional dances, but all the dance forms are explored to heighten their creative expressions. These groups are well recognized both locally and internationally and have earned numerous acclamations for the exposure that they give to the dance.
Jamaican dance culture is such a crucial part in the lifestyle of the people, if there is no dancing, one would say that the most part of the ingredients is missing. You have never truly experience Jamaica if you have not tried one of the dances.