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Dancehall - Cultural Dance Spotlight

Many popular artists and choreographers talk about being inspired by dancehall, but not many people know what it means beyond that. In this post, we’ll give you a general sense of what dancehall is as a form of dance.

What’s Dancehall?

Dancehall is a type of dance and music that branched off of reggae in 1970s Jamaica. These energetic and upbeat forms of music and dance are very closely tied together. Many dancehall songs are completely dedicated to the moves involved (similar to how songs like the Cha Cha Slide are all about the dance that goes with it).

How Did Dancehall Develop?

Since they weren’t allowed to attend the uptown dances, people from the inner city part of Kingston began creating dance halls in the 1940s where they could have dances of their own. Changes in the socio-political atmosphere of Jamaica in the 1970s saw a shift in the material that local artists included in their music. Musicians began moving away from the internationally-focused roots style of reggae and gave more importance to the local culture. This is when the modern form of dancehall really began to emerge.

What Does Dancehall Look Like?

Dancehall functions as a form of physical and emotional therapy where dancers can release their pent-up frustrations. As such, it can be fun, innocent and energetic, but can also include themes of violence and hypersexuality. Many lyrics are explicit but are spoken in Jamaican patois which is a dialect of English that’s very different from its root language, so english-speakers often have a hard time understanding dancehall music. Below is a creative video where a dancer highlights a different dancehall move for each letter of the alphabet.


How is Dancehall Used in Western Dance?

Dancehall influences are becoming more and more popular in western hip hop. Choreographers like Parris Goebel and Kiel Tutin have really helped to bring dancehall and its influences to the world stage. In the video below, you can see Sorority Dance Crew’s set from the World Hip Hop International Competition where they start off with a dancehall song called Put it Deh by an artist called Ce’Cile.

Musical artists in the west are also influenced by the sounds of dancehall music. Rihanna’s Work saw massive success as did Drake’s Controlla. Major Lazer has a number of songs that are heavily influenced by dancehall like Lean On and Light it Up.

Although it was just the tip of the iceberg, we hope this post helped give you more understanding about the rich history of Dancehall. If you have any questions or comments about dancewear, feel free to contact us and let us know.

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