Dancing in Jamaica is as historically pertinent as its music. People did it easily to Mento and worked out vigorously to the Ska, slow-cooked and heated it up to Rub-A-Dub and bounced to Rocksteady. The music created the dancing and the dancing refined the music; together they birthed a Sub-Culture sophisticated beyond its years. When Dancehall first stole centre stage, it was in the midst of political turmoil and economic instability. Combine these two factors with people anxious for escape-fixed or momentary and you have music that is for more than just recreation – you have music that lives and breathes its own way of being. Sub-Culture is always subject to fluctuations in its parent culture. Thus, it’s easy to connect the separating of genders in Dancehall’s early stages to the distancing of men and women in Kingston. Women were becoming stronger economically whilst men were becoming more hostile toward each other in politically motivated turf warfare. And although they left most of the tensions of ghetto life at the entrance to the dance halls, elements still crept in with them. So the women danced and paraded their new-found wealth together while the men surrounded them, for protection and gazing. The Dancehalls quickly became a place for flashy displays of the material wealth and social standing, gained or hoped for and it was not long before the Dancing reflected such sentiments.
Jamaican Dancing went from men and women closing in on each other to men and women showing off what they had or could perform apart. Songs celebrated women patting up and wining down while men were congratulated for straight-backed toughness and stamina. All while under the cover of air heavy with sound, hands lifted like Sunday daytime service; only these hands were praising a different set of virtues. These were the conditions in which a man like Gerald ‘Bogle’ Levy rose to prominence. Bogle took what was already happening – people throwing their possessions and abilities at each other in the language of excited legs and arguing arms – and formalized it. He took bits and pieces of movement and sound and crafted something totally new; something that looked back at motion passed down from Ancestors and into the future and the promises within it whilst staying current with the pressures of the realities when the Dance ends in a few daylight hours. He took the modelin’ of foreign goods, combined it with the sass of limbs only Jamaican landscapes could inspire and choreographed something real, relevant and truly reflective!