Ultimate 'dancehall museum' act takes dance champs
Unlike other competitions that sometimes incite contention, the National Arena erupted with pleasant applause after Team Ultimate was announced winner of World Reggae Dance Competition 2018.
Hosted by the perpetually effervescent Jennifer 'Jenny Jenny' Small, the competition's latest staging, held last Friday evening, celebrated the talent and creativity of local and international dancehall dancers and demonstrated the benefit of storytelling through song and dance.
Topping 10 other competitors, the five-member Team Ultimate conquered with a story of deejay stalwarts from the '80s and '90s. Taking inspiration from the comedy Night At The Museum, Shapiro Samuels took on the role of a drunken security guard strolling through a 'dancehall museum'. He encounters (or perhaps imagines) the wax figures of some of dancehall giants coming to life. "We didn't come up fully with the concept. Is since week we really create this concept," Samuels told The Gleaner.
Propped up on stage were four plastic see-through cases, one of which was covered in a black cloth. Posed in the cases were Adonere Bowen dressed as Beenie Man, Orlando Grout as Bounty Killer, and Nicholas Douglas as Shabba Ranks. As Samuels stumbled along to the track of Drunken Dance, the figures came to life and performed in the manner of their characters before unifying their choreography.
For most of their four-minute performance, the fourth case remained covered, until the final member of the dance crew, Kavaughn Scott, burst forth dressed as Tanto Blacks. This sent the audience reeling.
As with a most live productions, the World Reggae Dance Competition was not without flaws. While Team Ultimate provided a cohesive, comprehensive storyline cushioned by clean and skilfully coordinated dance moves, other crews were lacking. Flava X Empire from St Mary made a valiant effort, incorporating light-up gloves, shirts and a cape into their piece. They also managed to include a curtain rod and special effects - a smoke machine that left the arena in an acrid state for a moment.
There were more impressive attempts as Keen Steppaz (Kingston & St. Andrew) donned reflective vests and carried axes and shovels to mimic a construction site. The B.G. City Dancers (Kingston and St. Andrew) tried to reinvent the comic book lore of the Ninja Turtles, Master Splinter and a male-version of April O'Neil.
At the end of the night, there was a little over $1 million in cash and prizes to be issued. For the Most Disciplined Dance Crew, with a prize of $60,000, there was a tie between S.B. Team (Kingston and St. Andrew) and Full A Vibe (Poland). Full A Vibe also took the prize for Most Popular on Social Media, worth another $60,000. Worth $100,000, the Best International Group prize went to Schengen Squad (Italy). They were also awarded $60,000 for Best Costume.
In third place came Fantastic Steppaz, who were awarded $150,000. In second place came Schengen Squad, who were awarded $300,000 and Team Ultimate went home with the grand $600,000 prize.
This year's other World Reggae Dance Competition competitors were Team Young Talent (Clarendon), VIP Squad Dancers (St Ann), and Spanish Town Dance Theatre (St. Catherine).
Over its 12-year history, the competition appears to have become a well-oiled machine, with a passionate following, as well as an attentive and active support system.
Last year's winners, Xqlusiv Dancers, came back for their final performance as reigning World Reggae Dance champions.
Dancehall for Change, an international dance group out of Australia, was also part of the programme, along with dancehall artiste Razor B (backed by Versatile Ones) and Chi Ching Ching and the Get There Squad. Dropping his string of his hit songs (Way Up Stay Up, Watchi Wyah, Breadfruit, Rope), the lanky performer pulled many audience members to their feet and eventually on stage, where they danced like they had already rehearsed.