Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Dancers stand alone

Published:Monday | February 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Orville Hall (second right) dances along with patrons at the Boom Badda Dan Energy Drink dance finals at the basketball court, National Stadium, last July.
Justin Bieber
Latonya Styles
Global Bob

At a press conference held last week, some of Jamaica's most popular dancers/dance instructors pleaded for members of the country's creative industries to do more to protect Jamaica's dance legacy.

This follows a recent incident involving New Zealand choreographer Parris Goebel, the mastermind behind the choreography in the video for Justin Bieber's dancehall-inspired song, Sorry. A lot of dancehall moves were used in the video, including the Gully Creeper, Muscle Whine, Boassy Bounce and Cow Foot. However, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine late last year, the choreographer failed to recognise Jamaica or dancehall as the inspiration behind the dance moves used in the video.

This angered many Jamaicans, including dancer Orville Hall, who took to Instagram to speak his mind. "Ninety per cent of what you do in this video is dancehall and you know this," he said in the post. "The steps were not even modified, they were used in their original form," Hall asked Goebel if she was "really comfortable with taking someone else's culture and saying it's your creation?"


Goebel tried to quell the fire ignited on social media as a result of Hall's post by professing her affinity for dancehall. "If you know me personally or have worked with me before, you will know that I LOVE dancehall and have such a huge respect and passion for it. A lot of my routines before Sorry have been inspired by dancehall," Goebel said in a Facebook post. "A lot of my close friends are dancehall teachers and I took a lot of my year this year learning about it because I love it so much."

She went on to say that when the Justin Bieber opportunity came up, she grabbed it and did so with the intention of bringing more popularity to dancehall culture.

With the Goebel issue still fresh on their minds, Hall and other dancers, including Latonya Styles and Global Bob, held a discussion aimed at coming up with ways of copyrighting dance moves. Centred on the topic 'Pay Up or Come Off a We Ting', the discussion was intended to bring key industry players together to come up with a process for ensuring that dance creators are recognised for their work when it is used by others for monetary gain.


However, the panellists were left upset by the end of the meeting as some specially invited guests did not turn up to participate in the discussion. Latonya Styles of Dance JA expressed disappointment at the lack of support for the dance industry by the Government, but was especially upset that the persons who benefit the most from dancehall are not a part of the fight to ensure its legacy is protected.

"So many artistes make their living from dancers creating dances, but where are they in discussions like this?" she questioned, pointing out that several entertainers were invited to participate in the discussion but did not turn up. "It was supposed to be more a dancehall thing on a whole, which meant that artistes and other persons within the industry should have been participating, but at the end of the day it was just the same persons who have always been speaking on this issue. Not even the invited persons from the Government showed up."

Styles said there is disunity within the dancehall industry, which makes it easy for persons outside of Jamaica to manipulate the culture for their own use. "The industry is not a body. We are not operating as a unit and moving dancehall forward depends on everybody in the industry," she explained. "It's easy for people to manipulate the culture to their own benefit when they see that everyone in the industry is doing their own thing and no one is working together. We have to change this if we are going to move forward."

She said the issue of creators getting their fair share when outsiders use their material goes beyond the issues of copyright in Jamaica. "Getting single dance moves copyrighted is a tedious process. You can copyright a whole choreography, but single dance moves is a bit more complicated," Styles explained. "And even then, when you copyright moves here in Jamaica that doesn't stop people in Russia from using it. You have to go through the legal process in that country to do that."

Former dancehall queen and attorney at law Moiika shared the legal perspective at the meeting. She gave realistic options of organising and protecting the arts commodities of Jamaica and outlined mass copyrighting and trademarking, followed up with cease and desist orders as a way to get persons to credit dance creators.

"Legal protection will not stop those who love and want to share the culture from doing so. It will just prohibit those who make money from it from doing so without giving the creators their fair share," Moiika said.