Words by Sarah Bentley Photos by Debbie Bragg
Whether it’s by doing the Drop Dead into an open casket or arriving in a wheelbarrow, St. James dancer–and inventor of the infamous Dutty Wine–Dyema Attitude can turn an average dance into a moment in bashment history. Our gal and journalista Sarah Bentley recently grabbed a chicken soup with one of Jamaica’s wildest female entertainers and–among other trade secrets–got a how-to on safely ripping out your weave piece by piece at the climax of a dance routine. Photographer Debbie Bragg captured Dyema in action at the Dancehall Dancers Awards in Stratford Rex, UK.
LU: What you eating?
DA: Chicken soup. It’s my favorite dish. When I wake up inna the afternoon, I have to drink a bowl of soup before I can do anything. I like it really hot.
LU: Your legs are so bruised – is that from dancing?
DA: We get hurt a whole heap of times. Sometimes at a dance it get rough – the male dancers you know – but you just have to work with it. By the time I drink two Magnum, me off and I don’t feel no rough anyway. When I get home the next day I have to soap me legs with warm water and a rag, try to sooth the bruising.
LU: Who’s the roughest male dancer?
DA: Sample 6 very, very rough but I love dance with him. We travel a lot together to shows a-foreign, he’s like my dance partner. We go to do a stunt and sometimes him look pon me I tell him, Easy! –but him nah slow up. Him like the rough ting and I love to entertain the people.
LU: What sort of things do you do to be entertaining?
DA: The crazy dance me love. I do stunts and different things that will surprise the people. At a street party I’ve climbed an ackee tree, jumped inna wheelbarrow, gone on me head top of a moving car. For the Drop Dead dance I collapse onto the floor and feign a seizure. It’s not a normal dance but everybody love it. At Dutty Fridayz’ anniversary I dropped back into a casket I had built for me.
LU: Didn’t that feel weird?
DA: No so! Me enjoy myself. In dancing it’s all about the image. All eyes are on you at that time so you better come with something good.
LU: You’re not afraid to look a bit er, crazy are you? I mean, when you dance your facial expressions are out there, sometimes you look possessed.
DA: Ha ha! Sometimes me feel it. I was born to dance. I think it’s important to show emotion in your face, show the crowd how you feeling. Sometimes I get take by the spirit and me eyes roll in my head and all sorts. It’s all a part of the show.
LU: How did you get into dancing?
DA: I grew up in Flankers in Montego Bay. I was always around music. My father owned a record shop and soundsystem called Solid Love so from a little girl I was always dancing to reggae and dancehall. I start entering talent contests and charity shows, Lickle Miss Something or whatever. Soon as I was old enough I start going to proper dance and I form Attitude dance crew with me two friend, Dush and Isla.
LU: When did you start getting recognised in the industry?
DA: About 2005 when Dutty Wine blew up. People love that dance. At the time it was the first really crazy dance just for the females.
LU: What other dances have you created?
DA: After Dutty Wine me next big dance was Hot Wuk. I was in Mr Vegas and Elephant Man videos dancing it. When we bussed the dance at Passa Passa Tony Matterhorn call me name and create a hype and that’s when I start to feel like the industry take me serious. Since then I’ve created Mek Up Face, Non Trakk – plenty dances.
LU: Have you moved to Kingston since your dance career took off?
DA: No me still a Mo Bay. Me back and forth across the island. I’m always in de car.Town – Mo Bay, Mo Bay – town.
LU: What’s your favourite dance?
DA: Dutty Fridayz. It don’t finish till 9 inna the morning and the vibes crazy there. Me love it.
LU: How many times a week do you go out dancing?
DA: Six days a week. Monday to Saturday every week but sometimes Sunday too. I leave to go party like midnight and get back 10, 11 in the morning then sleep all day.Sometimes me do three dance inna night so me need me sleep.
LU: At a dance in London I saw you climb some railings then rip your weave out piece by piece and I was honestly a bit scared for your sanity. It looked like it was really hurting…
DA: It does hurt but pulling out me weave is one of me stunts – my fans love it when I do that. It’s shocking, it’s crazy – no other dancer gwine do that. And if I do it at the end of the night after I been sweating, the glue’s a bit more free up so it’s easier to pull out.