On Fridays, we like to celebrate all things dancehall here at KingstontoLA. Sometimes it’s a song, or an artist, today it’s another component of dancehall: the dancing. Dancehall dancing is just as important, culturally, as the music. Often times the songs created by dancehall artists are based off of one particular dance move, or even one particular Dancehall Queen.
Let’s start with dancehall’s origin story. The dancehall, established in the inner-city communities of Jamaica, is a party where people gather around large sound systems blasting raw, uncut, unapologetic music. It’s used as an outlet, helping unite and give Jamaican’s respite from the common reality of everyday life. A place where, often times, new ideas are crafted. From new slang, to fashion, to dance moves. This is how and where the Dancehall Queens blossomed and garnered their current notoriety.
A Dancehall Queen (DHQ), a dancer who is known in the dancehall community for their sexy or unique fashion sense, and most importantly, their authentic dance moves. Competitions began to spring up organically, where women would compete for the title of DHQ. In 1992, the first National DHQ of Jamaica was crowned. Carlene Smith, who later became involved with dancehall artist Beenie Man, was the first to rock the title on the island. The official competition was started in 1996 by Brian “Big Head” Martin, which crowned the hottest female dancehall dancer in Jamaica. The movement led to the making of the movie “Dancehall Queen” in 1997, starring Audrey Reid. It’s plot centers around a single mother, who enters the dancing competition to make extra money for her family. We support that.
The DHQ competition steadily gained popularity over the years, and in 2002 Junko Kudō from Japan was the first non-Jamaican to be awarded the title. Thus, the launch of the first International DHQ Competition in 2003, held in Montego Bay Jamaica. The annual event takes place at the Pier One Complex, and is now the most popular of all the DHQ competitions held around the globe.
In the summer of 2015 the International DHQ Contest put on by Big Head promotions, was the biggest competition to date. Many of the international competitors are known to arrive a few weeks early. They are on the island to practice their style and create a buzz at the local parties around Kingston and throughout Jamaica. Out of 36 contestants, from almost every continent, only 7 of them were from Jamaica. The winner of the 2015 International Dancehall Queen title is Keisha ‘Kiki’ Rodney of Kingston Jamaica, a dance tutor and now a DHQ.
There are hundreds of established DHQs across the globe, and other counties have begun to hold their own competitions while still staying true to the Jamaican culture. Many DHQs make appearances in music videos or start their own dance crews. They become teachers and choreographers, influencing style, artists and dancers all around the globe. Bruk Out!
In celebration of all the Danchall Queens worldwide, check out this year’s International Dancehall Queen competition. It’ll blow your mind!
Also, be on the look out for a new dancehall movie inspired by the International DHQ competition titled, Bruk Out, directed by Cory McKenna from New York who fell in love with the culture through her Jamaican ties in the city. The documentary shows the gut and passion of the dancehall queens who's hyper-sexualized dancing is viewed as a form of female empowerment.