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.