Words by Blacka Di Danca—
This past weekend was glorious for dancehall. The world’s first dancehall dance convention, officially known as the Dancehall Ragga Jam World Conference, was held in Paris, France, and it was a huge success.
Laure Courtellemont, a pioneer of dancehall culture in Europe for nearly 20 years, has been responsible for introducing dancehall dance to many countries, making huge strides in pushing Jamaican culture across the world. After 11 years, she won the fight to get dancehall on the program at Juste Debout, the world’s largest dance competition, where it made its debut just one month ago. And this past weekend, she and her Ragga Jam team brought hundreds of people from around the world to Paris to learn the real meaning and the real foundation of dancehall.
Jamaica’s Crazy Hype (from M.O.B Dancers) and Raddy Rich and myself were among those invited to the conference to share our knowledge with the scores of anxious dancehall students. Crazy Hype is a living dancehall legend—we do many of his dances today like “Calm Dem Down,” “Crawb Up” and “Above the Clouds.” Raddy Rich is responsible for the crossover style of dancehall that we see today taking influences from krumping, hip-hop, and more. Collectively, we taught the history of mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall. Music and dance is the voice of the Jamaican people— through it, you can know the entire political history of the country for the past century. I was honored to have been invited to teach a few hundred people a bit of my 10-year experience in this culture.
Teaching Europeans the culture of Jamaica is bigger than most people will see today, but years from now, it will be evident. What we’re doing here is more than teaching dancehall classes and a few “Pon Di River” steps. It’s broader than daggering or the typical, highly sexual idea of dancehall movement. Dancehall is strong and fierce. Dancehall is a lifestyle. Dancehall can be taught. And through it, we can teach the world love again. I know it sounds crazy—teaching the world love through dancehall? But we’re doing it whether you understand it or not. Different cultures and countries are coming together and dancing as one race. Our workshop tours are impacting not just the dance of these people, but their lifestyle and mindset.
So what is Ragga Jam? Ragga Jam is a musical expression of dancehall. There are no Ragga Jam steps, it is not a spin-off of dancehall, nor is it advantageous of it. It is a platform that brings real dancehall to masses. Musicality in choreography is the difference, dancehall is the basis, Ragga Jam is the expression. It draws in dancers of different styles to wonder and research what dancehall is, and where it comes from.
This is only the beginning. Things are blowing up fast, and our fight is paying off! Real and authentic Jamaican dancehall is getting to the top, where it belongs. For years we’ve seen our dancehall dance moves used in hip-hop music videos without credit, but now, the entire music industry is turning back to dancehall and reggae. We have so much in store for the world. It’s a dancehall revolution!