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Celebrating driving forces behind dancehall culture

NEW DANCE: Seani learns how to “Flairy” with Ding Dong’s Ravers Clavers crew

YOU CAN’T speak about dancehall without literally mentioning...the dances!

This year we have been Flairing, Flinging and pretty much whatever else Ding Dong has thrown at us. Even my two left feet got involved whilst in Jamaica earlier this year as an extra to Ding’s Raver Team. After that, I fully realised why I am a DJ...

The moves seem pretty basic and simple to follow until you start counting in your head then letting your feet and hands go, this is when I scream out in my head: “Bring back the Bogle!”

This part of the dancehall has spread worldwide with dance crews in Japan, Europe and the UK, some of whom travel to the holy grail for lessons or even y in a dance icon to teach a class. Dancing is big business!

SEXUAL

One of the UK’s strongest focal points for dancing is in south London, and it’s in Brixton where we meet the young lady who is playing her part to school enthusiasts.

Shelaine Prince runs the Ignition Dance Company alongside her fellow Afrobeats dance teacher Verona Patterson, and is grooming a wide range of dance fans to the beat of our tunes.

Born in the UK to Jamaican parents, Shelaine explains her thoughts: “For me, it’s very important to stay grounded and de nitely go back to Jamaica as much as possible. Not even just for my dancing, just for me – just to stay connected.”

It’s clear that Shelaine is a fierce advocate for dancehall and especially her area of expertise – females “Brukking Out”.

“You know there are not many dancers that can teach the raw essence of it.
“Let’s be real about it, 98 per cent of the dance is coming from a sexual connotation – and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she says, criticising the double standards society puts on women.

“People are just so tiptoed because we are women. We should sit on the bench and be nice and pretty and better not talk about sex but be the freak in the bedroom. How about I just do what I wanna do?! That’s why I love dancehall, it’s so liberating for me.”

Her formula regarding oversexualisation of women and the dance is weighing it up. “Am I offending or am I empowering more? Which one is it? I’m empowering more.”


Shelaine Prince

This empowerment of women and keeping it authentic is what is most important to Shelaine when it comes to her classes. That is why her classes
on Thursdays at Studio B in Brixton are for females only.

Those classes act as a safe haven for her female students, where they not only learn the authentic dance moves but are free to express themselves and their sexuality with dance.

“It is not just to express and leave that in the studio, it is to take it with them and carry on in their life,” adds Shelaine. “We concentrate on the moves and the grooves. There’s no pressure. I pride myself with being as approachable as possible. So people can come to me even after class and be like, ‘Hey Shelaine, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!’”

But it isn’t just a female thing, she offers classes for men, too. In fact, Shelaine’s dancehall classes attract people from all walks of life and all back- grounds. I find myself wondering what makes it so special and intriguing?

“It is so colourful. It is so bright and so vibrant and got so many layers, and it’s the same for the music. It’s that energy. That bass alone. Proper dancehall – I don’t think it can be compared to anything else. That groove, like Bogle – and I don’t know of any genre that develops so quickly. There’s a new dance all the time,” she excitedly explains.

However, that is where concerns come up as well. New School moves often can be compared to hip hop and Shelaine wonders where that develop-
ment is going to go.

“I teach the New School moves but I’m on my mission to keep my stuff the way it is. I don’t water it down,” she says. This is what she learnt form ob- serving the greatest dance icon of all time – Bogle, aka Mr Wacky.

“It is very important to train and study dancehall if you really want to teach, especially Europeans need to do their research and immerse in the culture. On top of that, giving back to the community and giving credit where it’s due is a must. Don’t call it something that it’s not.”

I certainly echo those sentiments. Even Shelaine is still learning. “When I go back to Jamaica. I’m always learning myself. It’s important for me to keep connected because I live over here.”

Shelaine continues: “It is a matter of the heart because dancehall is more than just the music or just the dance, it is a culture. Therefore, it is the way you move, the way you talk, the way you act, the music you listen to, the food you eat – it’s just your whole Levity.

“So for me, it’s not about turning up at the studio and teaching for the hour. Dancehall to me is my whole entire life. From when I get up in the morning, I’m dancehall. That’s it.”

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