Blacka’s World: Choreographing Dancehall’s Mainstream Moment

Words by Blacka Di Danca
Photo by Dishem Ramnath

blacka-di-danca

LargeUp Massive, it’s Blacka Di Danca, your favorite choreographer (hopefully… one day…LOL) again. I just had to share with you some new and interesting developments in my world, and the world of dancehall at large.

What we’ve been waiting on, and pushing for, is finally happening. Dancehall dancing is making its way into the mainstream more prominently. The dancehall community has been collectively pushing these dances around the world, through songs, parties, workshops, events and YouTube videos… and it seems like the commercial world is finally taking heed. I’ve taught dancehall workshops in over 20 countries worldwide for the past five years, and my goal has been to see real and authentic dancehall dancing and dancers get the proper attention and credit they deserve. For years we’ve been killing ourselves in street parties, clubs and workshops trying to get people to understand why we love these dances so much ­­­­­­­­­­– and in the past week alone, there have been two major industry players acknowledging dancehall – Drake and Justin Bieber.

Last week, Justin Bieber released a dance video promoting his newest single, “Sorry.” The song, produced by Skrillex and Blood, has a sort of “dancehall” feel to it. Skrillex, a friend of mine who I teach dancehall steps to every time we run into each other, has a history of bringing dancehall and reggae into his production. He loves to dance and is always excited to learn the newest dancehall dances, so I am not surprised that “Sorry” has such a strong Caribbean influence in the production.

The “Sorry” video was choreographed by an amazing choreographer, Parris Goebel. Parris is a great talent, and has been working with dancehall teachers around the world who happen to be close friends of mine, and she put a bit of Caribbean moves in the video. It’s an honor to see her try to appropriately apply island moves and give the West Indies recognition; I respect choreographers who at least go for the dancehall feel.

Now the moves were great, the choreography was great, but it was not exactly the dancehall that I connect with, so I chose to choreograph a video myself to give my take on the song with the dancehall steps that I love. I’m not trying to do a better job than Parris. She is already amazing on her own as an expert choreographer – I’m just trying to respectively show my vision with my dancehall expertise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIvDqMZOs14

Also, last week, my good friend Tanisha Scott popped up in Drake’s new “Hotline Bling” video and showed off her dancehall skills. Tanisha has choreographed almost every Sean Paul video you grew up watching in the 2000s and is a wonderful, hard-working person who works to push dancehall every day. If you watch the video, you’ll see her showing us the famed “Log On” dance created by Mr. Bogle, Gerald Levy. Drake’s video went viral because of his “awkward” dancing, but Tanisha’s great dancing is also present, so with the buzz around the crazy Drake moves, one still will see authentic dancehall dances. It’s amazing to see dancehall making it further and further every day. We’ve been fighting for this and pushing for this for years now, and it’s getting there! I’ll be headed on tour next week, my 7th tour in Europe teaching dancehall workshops for a month, so I’ll continue to play my role in the advancement of dancehall culture worldwide.

By the way… Justin, if you ever want to learn some dancehall moves, hit me up!