Dancehall Queens - The legacy continues
Admiral Bailey gave all the instructions for the dance move called the 'butterfly' that Carlene Smith is credited for popularising in 1992. Anyone who knows the '90s dancehall track Butterfly will not be able to resist mouthing the lyrics as they attempt the dance. But according to Smith, who is also dubbed the first dancehall queen in Jamaica, not many persons understand what it truly means to do the 'Butterfly': "A lot of persons still have not got the form for the dance move correct."
Although she has retired from the street-dancing scene, she has remained what Beenie Man and Chevelle Franklyn pre-empted (in the 1997 Dancehall Queen single), "the dancehall queen for life", and still headlines local and international dance workshops.
"Persons that want to learn dancehall go to the workshops to learn moves from the grassroots, not coming for watered-down dance, but the real dancehall-Jamaican style," Smith told The Gleaner.
For that reason, she has remained active on the workshop scene and will be participating in the upcoming Jamaica Tourist Board-sponsored Wan Move Diaspora '18 conference in the role of teacher and panellist.
"I am not performing, just highlighting some of the dance moves so that dancers know how they are done in its correct form. And as a panellist, I am there to teach whoever is interested to know more about dancehall from its grassroots," she said.
The conference is spearheaded by Moiika Stanley, previously crowned Dancehall Queen (DHQ) in the 2008 staging of the competition held at Pier 1, Montego Bay. Her participation, she said, is her contribution to "the creative continuum of dancehall".
"I wanted to take it back to basics before all the jumping and crazy gymnastics, so I took it from the narrative of a dancehall queen, and rather than getting persons to teach a typical class, to let the information come from someone with the experience," Stanley said.
She added: "Before everyone was travelling for dance (and male dancers specifically don't like to hear this), the interest blew up because of dancehall queens."
Dancehall dance has become a phenomenon led by women, the dancer explained. "What Dancehall Queen Carlene started spread to other countries like wildfire and has been a benefit to all of Jamaica presented in that light. Female dancers, dancehall queens, started the influx of international people coming. Furthermore, the world cannot discredit the impact that dancehall dancing has had on other cultures."
Other females featured for Wan Move include L'Acadco founder L'Antoinette Stines, Kimiko Miller (one of the directors for the Versatile Ones dance group), Shelly-Ann Callum of Dance Xpressionz, and Kerry-Ann Henry of the National Dance Theatre Company.
The Wan Move event has a formula, said Stanley, to include teachers who have years of experience within dancehall and other cultural dance forms, with Shelly Belly and Orville Hall adding to the list of teachers.
"I do not think much of female dancers adding the title of DHQ to their names, and there are many that don't even know how to wine, so my concerns are more directed at providing education from the foundation because these days, we find that persons practising the art do not respect the foundation," she said. "Everyone wants to dance. To teach dance, you have to be a student first; the whole thing is to respect the roots."
Smith said she was not about to challenge current dancers, but rather, "It is about uplifting and giving guidance and knowledge. While I embrace some of the knowledge the younger generation of dancers have of whatever they are doing now, as long as it is in keeping with dancehall, I am all for it. Dancehall is part of the culture and is my lifestyle."