The Evolution of Jamaican Dancing

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jamaican dancing moves

Have you ever been to Jamaica? If yes, it is highly likely that you see persons dancing all the time. Dancing has always been a part of Jamaicans everyday lives. People dance everywhere and on all occasions, for cultural celebrations, worship, social gatherings, formal events, and even to tell stories. Whenever music is playing, you are sure to see hips swaying as old and young people move to different island beats. Keep reading this write-up about the evolution of Jamaican dancing to find out exactly where the moves come from.

Dance has been a part of Jamaica’s society for ever. A blend of African and European music and dances were created from the colonization days. Images of slaves show them making merry and dancing at relaxation. The music today reflects the work songs and folk songs which were created and enjoyed by the slaves. These combine with other dance forms which Jamaicans sway to, whether they are celebrating or walking down the streets.

What you’ll learn in this post:
learning 1 The different cultures that contribute to Jamaican dancing.
learning 2 How many actual forms of dances from Jamaica that exist.
learning 3 A quick tutorial on doing some popular dance moves through a Jamaican dancing video.

Jamaicans Dancing Over Time

Native dances were introduced to the island by African slaves, European settlers, and others. Most have combined and evolved to form traditional dances. According to the National Library of Jamaica, the dances are in three categories – African-derived, Creole, and European-derived.

The dances which are African-derived are in two forms, religious and social. African religious dances include Kumina, Pocomania and Myal. These dances are preserved in the Maroon Communities.

On the other hand, the Jamaican Creole dances combine the African and European cultures. They include Bruckin’s, Pukkumina, Dinkie Mini, and Maypole. The social dances from the European culture are usually accompanied by work songs and ring games.

Almost forty distinctive Jamaican dancing styles have been identified over the years, with the seven main ones falling in Maroon, Kumnia, Myal, Revival, Jonkonnu, Hosay, and Rastafari groups. All the dances except for Hosay and Jonkonnu are considered religious, whilst the others are secular. Pukkumina and Jonkonnu Jamaican dancing still exist today.

  • Pukkumina: Based on Myalism rituals, these dances are part of Revival traditions. The rituals differ from one place to the other, but all of them use music as well as improvised harmonies and melodies to induce possession.
  • Jonkonnu: More than a celebration in Jamaica, Jonkonnu is also a musical and dance tradition. The dance traditions are in fact the oldest style recorded on the island. African groups typically enact plays with mime-style, whilst European folk theatre traditions play short recitations and scenes. For this, dancers are given specific moves each portraying their own character and role. Jonkonnu is performed at celebrations today with a blend of authentic Jamaican styles.

Performance Dancing In Jamaica

Dance developed in a performance setting in Jamaica since the mid-nineteen hundreds. At first, it was only taught to light-skinned persons but a Jamaican girl called Hazel Johnston changes this after learning music in England. Johnston died very young before realizing her dream, but a student called Ivy Baxter managed to do so by fusing Jamaican folk dances and classical styles. The Ivy Baxter Creative Dance Group was founded in 1950. Eddy Thomas and Rex Nettleford who joined this group, later founded the National Dance Theatre Company. They perform Jamaican dances annually, both locally and overseas. Many other dance groups have emerged since then, including troupes at the University of the West Indies.

The National Dance Theatre Company, Edna Manley School of Dance, and many other popular groups have helped to keep the dance tradition alive through regular shows. These groups have received international and local acclaim for exposing Jamaican dancing forms to people all over the world.

Jamaica Dancehall, Jamaican Dancing Gone Wrong and Much More

jamaican dancing gone wrong

Every musical form in Jamaica inspired dances of their own, but the moves originated in the dance halls are the most notorious. These dances go with songs and they change just as fast as the popular music. Not surprisingly, the dance styles are often done much like how they sound. Some are dictated by the songs and lyrics, which inspire the names.

Of course, dancehall was not the first musical style that inspired dances in Jamaica as the SKA had been one of the earlier forms of popular music. Ska had dances of its own as well, with energetic routines which were inspired by an upbeat musical style. The basic SKA steps are done in few variations.

rocksteady jamaica

Jamaican dancing slowed down as the music progresses into Rocksteady. Many people did not want to dance so fast, in particular the rude boys, so the slower dances and beats of this music allowed them to remain much longer on the dance floor. This move also helped to increase the popularity of dances which are Ska-inspired.

Takeaways On Dancing In Jamaican

Jamaica Island is filled with lots music, so dancing is inescapable. If you want to enjoy dances while visiting Jamaica and the Caribbean, there will be many different types available from the styles which are African and European-inspired to moves which are truly local. An evening at a local club will give you a chance to learn many new dances!


 tweetable The Evolution of Jamaican Dancing. A Must Read!
 tweetable More than a celebration in Jamaica, Jonkonnu is also a musical and dance tradition.
 tweetable Dancing is the poetry of the foot. – John Dryden
 tweetable Dancehall was not the first musical style that inspired dances in Jamaica

Now It’s Your Turn – What’s Your Experience?
Do you have a favorite form of Jamaican dances? Leave a comment below to share…

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