Dancehall's dancers go hungry
Death of community dances levels income platform
Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Since the downturn in the number of popular street dances like Passa Passa in Tivoli Gardens and Dutty Fridayz in Fletcher's Land, several popular Jamaican dancers have disappeared from the entertainment radar.
The dancers claim the parties assisted with their ascension to stardom and provided financial stability for their families; without them, they have become redundant.
Passa Passa began in 2006 and sparked dances of similar nature like Dutty Fridayz, and increased the popularity of events like Hot Mondays and Early Mondays and the like. In fact, several rural parishes in Jamaica began hosting their own events.
Supported by mostly unemployed youths based in Kingston's inner cities, and promoted through raunchy DVDs, Passa Passa gradually became an international product, with episodes hosted in Cayman Islands, French Guyana, and Trinidad as well as Passa Passa Meets Dutty hosted in New York among others.
Each staging of the events promoted those who were its most frequent patrons, the dancers, who became, for a moment, celebrities.
Passa Passa and Dutty Fridayz DVDs were popular commodities for dancehall enthusiasts living overseas, as well as locals who simply wanted to learn exclusive dancehall dance moves from the original creators in an authentic dancehall environment. The parties were bold in every sense of the world. The fashion was loud, the music was loud and many of the dance moves were explicitly loud.
Passa Passa, in its original state, failed to survive the after effects of a May 10 incursion into Tivoli. Subsequent curfews and a refusal by police to allow for other events, in effect, killed the phenomenon. With the death of the popular street dances, dancers felt the pinch.
According to street dancer Bone Crusher, who made a name for himself during the Passa Passa/Dutty Fridayz series, his career has been rocky without the main platforms of exposure.
According to the dancer, coupled with an 'event crippling' Noise Abatement Act, dancers are forced to take their craft to club events. However, this platform is not effective enough to draw attention to their dance moves.
"Without Passa Passa and Dutty Fridayz it hard fi survive. Dancing mek from the street and without the street we are nothing. We used to get shows from overseas but dem nah book dancer again because dem don't know what we have to offer. Club parties are about modelling, a man in a corner with him Hennessey and if you try to dance dem seh 'oi dancer bwoy mine yu touch mi', everyday mi cry fi Passa Passa," he said.
His claim was supported by fellow dancer Over Mars. Credited as the creator of the 'Now You See Me, Now You Don't' dance move, Over Mars believes the media hype created by Passa Passa and Dutty Fridayz is unrivalled by contemporary parties.
According to the dancer, the CDs associated with the street parties presented dancers much in the same way reality stars find their way into the homes of people all over the world.
"Some people buy CDs from Passa Passa one straight to 10 and they capture the names and book us for events. Even less fortunate people like mentally challenged Madusa used to get clothes from overseas," he said.
Over Mars says in an attempt to learn Jamaican dance moves, Europeans have resorted to hosting workshops in Europe, however, because there is no Passa Passa and Dutty Fridayz DVD, people are not sure which faces to match with the new moves.
"They are selling our moves now because they can't see us anymore; the new crop of dancers are not even known by the public," he said.
Without the platform to expose their work, several dancers have resorted to other means of survival.
Street dancers Ding Dong, Chi Ching Ching and Over Mars have released songs like Summer Swing, Too Many Men and Now You See Me, Now You Don't respectively.
Female dancer Keiva has opened a clothing store, pointing out that dancing alone can no longer pay the bills, while fellow female dancer Latonya Style has opened a dance/aerobics school in Half-Way Tree.
However, several distressed dancers are still hoping that authorities will look their way and grant the elusive permission to host Dutty Fridayz and Passa Passa again.
"Wi want back Passa Passa the same venue, even if it haffi over a little bit earlier, but a wi work place dat," Bone Crusher told The Sunday Gleaner.
If Passa Passa and Dutty Fridayz were to make a return in their authentic forms, perhaps they would have had to be exempted from the Noise Abatement Act, because both events are known to go way past the legal turn off time which is currently 2 p.m.
Passa Passa was last hosted on August 1, 2012, in collaboration with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. Some dancers who were popular during the reign of both events include Black Blingaz, Shelly Belly, Dyma, Hyla, Mad Michelle, Timeless Dancers, Sample 6, Cadillac Dancers, Jermaine Squad, Marvin, Ding Dong, Stacey, Bone Crusher, Queen Latesha, Decka, Craigy Dread, Ice, Sadeke, Boysie Roses, John Hype, and Cosmic Dancers.