The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) is promising that this year's World Reggae Dance contest will be the most exciting and memorable to date as teams from Jamaica and overseas show off their dance skills, while vying for more than one million is cash and prizes.
World Reggae Dance Coordinator, Juliet Cowan-Morgan, says that from the level of competition seen throughout the preliminary rounds, the national finals slated for August 4, “will be very big and the competition will be really tight."
She tells JIS News that in addition to the $1 million in cash and prizes, which will go to the top three finishers, the JCDC will be awarding sectional prizes this year.
“We will be awarding persons for the best costume, the best rural group, best international group and the most disciplined group, so no one person will walk away with all the prizes for this year,” she says.
Competition began months ago with the elimination of dancers at several auditions held island-wide. Over 50 groups were seen at auditions held at Priory Beach in St. Ann and at Jockey Factory in Lucea, Hanover, while almost 80 groups turned up at an elimination exercise held at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre.
Mrs. Cowan-Morgan explains that some of the groups were removed because they did not adhere to reggae and dancehall dance movements. “They were not properly choreographed for an audience, the stage was not properly utilised, and some of the songs were not appropriate. We deliberately said no hip hop and no disco, so those would have been automatically eliminated,” she informs.
She notes however that overall, “we had good performances from the groups this year. The standard was very high and it was really a tight elimination."
“You see Jamaican popular Reggae dance. You can see movements coming from the Nyabinghi,the Ska, the Rock Steady and other traditional expressions. That’s what we look for,” she says, noting that the teams were judged in three main areas – coordination, originality and delivery.
About 25 to 30 dance groups displayed their dance skills at the semi-finals held earlier this month and from that group, 15 have been selected for the finals slated for Saturday, August 4 at the at the National Indoor Sports Centre. The finalists participated in a one-week workshop, where they received assistance to hone their final performance “just to ensure that what they are showcasing to the public is clean and creative,” Mrs. Cowan Morgan says.
The finals, slated to get underway at 8:00 pm, will be one of the main activities at the Independence Jubilee Village being held in celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary celebrations under the theme: ‘Jamaica 50: A Nation on a Mission’. Anonymous, which won the competition in 2010 and 2011, will be the special guest artiste at the event.
“Anonymous is a very outstanding group. They have been on a lot of shows, not only in Jamaica, but other countries. They are doing excellent,” Mrs. Cowan-Morgan says.
The annual competition, held since 2006, has been a major success, attracting talented local dancers and many from overseas. It is open to groups of three to eight persons, 16 years of age and over, and residing in or outside of Jamaica. Its aim is to give national and international exposure to talented dancers as they compete in the categories of Roots Reggae; Dancehall; Reggae Contemporary/Classic; Reggae Dancehall; and Dance Narrative.
Mrs. Cowan-Morgan tells JIS News that the competition is “much different and unique” from other dancing contests. “We cater to the street dancers out there, many of them do not work. They really do not have anywhere else to showcase their talent, so I think that they use this medium to express themselves and …to benefit from the workshops, which we provide for them,” she says.
Additionally, she notes that while with other competitions, dancers would be required to compete in various genres, “with the JCDC World Reggae Dance, you concentrate on the popular and reggae dance movements.
Over the years, the competition has attracted dancers from the wider Caribbean and Japan, while a Japan- Jamaica team will compete in this year’s finals. Overseas groups are not compelled to attend the auditions semi-finals and because of the travelling expenses, and are allowed to submit their dance on a DVD which is shown at the semi-finals and they are judged along with the others.
In 2009, the competition received its first entry from a Japanese Dance Group, which placed second in the finals that year. This group entered again in 2010 and 2011.
Noting the interest from foreign groups, Mrs. Cowan-Morgan says: “we are Jamaicans and anything that we do, other persons want to copy us and I think they just love the popular dance and that’s why they are so persistent in participating and winning.”
By Elaine Hartman Reckord, JIS PRO