Cindy Claes Dancehall discovery in Jamaica

23 May 2012 Posted by Maryland Studioz London

August, 2011...
I can see Killa Bean waving in the distance.  He is running towards me with a huge smile!  He is so proud not to be late today.  He is actually one hour early!  We eat some rice and peas and jerk chicken and wait for the others to arrive.  There they are: Fabian, Norris, Bradley and Karl.  Some of them walked for an hour and half to get here, and will do so again to go back home.  Under the heat and the burning sun, with no money in their pockets to pay for the bus fare, they were determined to come to the “Dancehall Theatre” class.

(I am passionate about Hip-Hop Theatre and believe this art form has a huge power to transform the world we live in.  As a “street dancer” we are often told the only way to make a living from our art is to work for the commercial sector.  I do not have any academic training in dance, I actually have an MA in sociology and anthropology.  But somehow, along the way, I was blessed to discover the theatre world.  When I discovered I could tell stories through dance, make political statements with Hip-Hop, make people laugh with Krump, initiate debates using Dancehall moves, I tapped into something that truly made me fly!  I felt I was an “artist” who had things to say.  I had creativity bubbling inside me and it needed to be expressed in a theatrical and intellectual way.  After many years, became a dance theatre maker myself.  So, I wanted to give other dancers, who do not attend academic training in dance, the opportunity to develop their artistry.  This is how I started the Dancehall Theatre project in Jamaica.)

Edna Manley College in Kingston offered me free rehearsal space and here we were: Supreme Blazers crew and me, exploring concepts and narratives to be told through Dancehall.  They were initiated to new ways of thinking while I perfected my dancehall skills.  M.O.B, Supreme Blazers, Chelcia and her lil homies from Portmore, gave me so much knowledge and shared it with a huge amount of passion.

That’s what “dancehall” is about. Teaching each other the latest moves and sharing the love for the dancehall.  Jamaican dancers are extremely welcoming.  They love sharing their culture with those who appreciate it.

Dancehall is a daily celebration of creativity.  New moves are being created as we speak.  The movement vocabulary is very very very rich!

Today, I miss Jamaica.  I miss Kingston.  I miss the parties, the friends I made, the accent, the patois I do not understand and the ackee and salt fish they only serve early in the morning.  I remember walking up and down the streets frenetically trying to find my favorite meal... but as I rarely woke up before 8am, my only choice was to try again the next day.

I watch all videos people post and try to keep up with the richness of the Dancehall movement.  So many steps have been added to this huge encyclopedia of dance, and its only been 8 months since I last went.  It makes me smile.  This culture is so dynamic and ever-changing.  Dancehall has its own history, but at the same time, we are creating the history of Dancehall now.  I wonder which steps will survive over the years, and I wish humanity could remember them all, as each move is a legacy to the dancers never-ending bubbling creative minds.

I am very excited to start teaching Dancehall on a weekly basis in London!!  I hope to eradicate stereotypes many have about Dancehall.  Whereas booty shaking and dancehall queen competitions are certainly part of the culture, there is so much more to discover.  I hope to bring a new understanding of the art form, share its technique, and spread the love for a dance which is SO RICH in history and movement quality.

Classes held at Maryland Studioz Tuesday 8.30-10pm. 
84-86 Leytonstone Road,
E15 1TQ

VIDEO - The Dancehall Theatre Project in Kingston/Jamaica:
VIDEO: dancehall workshops with Cindy: