Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Five Questions with Blacka Di Danca

Published:Friday | August 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle/Gleaner Writer
Blacka Di Danca
Blacka Di Danca
Children in Blacka Di Danca charity at the St Martin de Porres Primary School in Gordon Town.
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In this week's edition of Five Questions With, we get to know dancer Blacka Di Danca. He has been making waves on the international scene, and was recently featured in Janet Jackson's Made For Now music video. He considers himself an ambassador as he travels the world, spreading the Jamaican culture through dance. While he may be breaking barriers, the dancer has not forgotten his roots and has been giving back to Jamaica by teaching children from the St Martin de Porres Primary School in Gordon Town, St Andrew.

What's it like working with children?

I started a children's charity and dance programme in Jamaica called the Little DANCA programme, about two years ago, and it has been the most rewarding experience ever.

Working with children reminds you of the innocence that we often lose as adults. They dance with all their heart, smile with all of their face, and have no shame or guilt in what they do. It reminds you why you started, and why you must keep going. It reminds you of the responsibility that we all have - to make the next generation better than we were. Most importantly, by working with children, I've learnt that success is not what you do for yourself, but what you do for others. Children really do say and do the darndest things, but the children of Gordon Town have so much manners, and are so kind and joyful, that it's always a really heart-warming experience.

Where's your favourite place to vacation?

My favourite place to vacation is Miami - at least in my mind. I don't get the chance to go on vacations with the work that I'm doing, and haven't been on an actual vacation in maybe 10 years. But when I'm in Miami, I love it. The weather is warm, the seas is warm, and with island blood in my veins, I need to be in warm weather. I would eventually love to buy a home in Miami, I have family that live there, as well as close friends.

On your travels around the world, what have you learnt about how Jamaican culture is perceived and accepted?

In the past five years, I've had the chance to visit about 30 countries teaching dancehall workshops, and one thing they all have in common with their attraction to Jamaican culture, is the way that it makes them feel inside. It allows them to express feelings of joy, and sometimes pain, that they don't feel when dancing to other music.

The history of Jamaican music involves expression - expression of everyday truths. For instance, with ska music, the tempo was faster, and the dance moves were 'happier' because of the mood of the people before Independence, which quickly changed to a slower tempo after Independence with rocksteady.

The correlation of mood to music in Jamaican culture is something that is so specific to the island that it connects people all around the world without them even realising why. Dancehall is an expression of a reality, and often a struggling reality. Everyone around the world struggles in different ways, and I believe that, used properly, the teachings of dancehall, positive and negative, can continue to give the world an outlet to express and connect ... making the world feel a little smaller.

What's the farthest part of the world you have taught dancehall, and how did the people react?

The farthest part or at least, the craziest and most unexpected part of the globe that I've taught dance lessons was in Siberia. It is also the coldest place I've ever been! The weather was -35?C, and when you breathe in air that cold, the air won't even go to your lungs - you just cough up and feel like you're drowning. It was a crazy experience, but even in the coldest place in the world, dancehall still keeps people warm and happy.

Siberians love the music, love the dance, love the culture, love the people, love the flag, love the Patios, and love the food. I've been there a few times and I'm always impressed with the passion from the dancers. They have their own crews, put on their own shows and invite many instructors from Jamaica and abroad. Dancehall is really loved everywhere!

What inspired you to get into dancing?

Growing up in Brooklyn, in a West Indian household and in a West Indian neighbourhood, I learnt how to dance before I learnt how to walk - literally. There are old VHS videos of me as a baby in diapers, with my family holding my hands bouncing up and down in my diaper to reggae, dancehall, soca, calypso and my mother's favourite Christmas album of pauper's music. I didn't get into dancing, dancing is part of my culture. But what inspires me to never get out of dancing, is the look on people's face when they love what they see, and the feeling, knowing that your own two feet can change people's lives, including my own.