Words by Blacka Di Danca
Photos by Jody Carter
Dare to Dancehall is not only a dancehall-inspired theater show but a dream come true for the dancers and devotees pushing dancehall culture worldwide. As I sit here in the airport in Barcelona in the middle of my latest tour, I can’t help but reminisce on what we have done together as an international cast in two countries within the past year….
Many times, people see a show, see videos and photos, see “big” names, but don’t realize what was put into the projects that you double tap on social media….
Last June, my sister and world-renowned choreographer Laure Courtellemont contacted me about a project… but a crazy project. She wanted to create the first full dancehall theater production in L.A. Now when we say dancehall, it’s not a small word to be taken lightly. When you represent dancehall, you represent a certain group of people — Jamaican people — and you represent their struggle. It’s a heavy task which involves a lot of effort… so she asked dancers and choreographers from all around the world for their help.
What happened next was magical. We all canceled our work schedules, and bought plane tickets to fly to LA and work for two weeks to make this dream happen. And we did! Hollywood entertainers of all sort showed up — rapper The Game sat front row. Both nights were packed to the gills with cheering dancehall fans. Even newcomers to the culture screamed as if they’ve known this music and dance all of their lives. And best of all, we donated money from the show and our Dare to Dancehall dance workshops directly to the source of our inspiration –– Jamaica! Donating money back to Jamaica is one of our main points for this show.
Last month was another dream come true because we took the show to Paris! We spent weeks together living and training in a foreign country, bringing a foreign culture that we knew would sweep their hearts away…. and it did! Dare to Dancehall was the first full dancehall show performed on the Golden Stage at the famous La Villette. Before I continue, I want to explain how important that is. In Paris, it seems like every dance style is supported and respected BUT dancehall. A lot of the blame goes to the media, for highly sexualizing a culture that has much more to give than ridicule-based ratings for a media outlet. If you live overseas, thousands of miles away from Jamaica, all you can understand of a culture for the most part is what is presented to you over media – social media included.
What we did in Paris was different and more difficult than in LA because there is not already a Jamaican community there like there is in LA. What we did was bring an already misunderstood culture to a country with their minds made up on what and what not to accept, and played and danced to the rawest names like Mavado and Vybz Kartel with smiles on our faces and sweat running down our backs. But this is the idea of our project… we DARE to dancehall no matter where or when. And again…. we DARED, and we DID!
For three consecutive nights, we had over 1,200 people in the audience staring, watching, smiling, yelling and ending with standing ovations! Three nights in a row, we gave them something they couldn’t refuse — love and hard work. And nothing beats that… Nothing beats passion with a purpose.
It’s amazing what we’ve done so far in one year…. but this is not yet a success story. We need your help. We are asking for donations to help make this show happen again in June in L.A., and, unfortunately, the show won’t go on without the support of our community. With your help, we can rent the rehearsal studio and stage, pay for lighting and production, and everything else that comes with a theater show. Anything you can share with us helps, whether a dollar or a repost, but we need your support to continue our project. Dare to Dancehall, for us, is a dream come true… but more importantly… the right step in the right direction with people who give their heart and souls daily around the world to see Caribbean culture to the top – where it needs to be. We are a family. We work together, eat together, train together, and struggle together. Now, with only a few weeks left before the next show, we humbly ask together for your helping hand.
Dare to Dancehall, and make Dare to Dancehall happen by donating through our Indiegogo page here.
See highlights from the Paris show, choreographed by Laure Courtellemont and Babson and shot by Jody Taylor, here: