“Nah, a just some badman forward, badman pull up tune dem.”
While some vintage ‘80’s ‘badman’ tunes were playing in a crowded dance one night in Jamiaca, partygoers were shocked to see Ding Dong, one of the newest and hottest dancers, leaning against a wall, nodding to the rhythm. When asked why he wasn’t tearing up the dance center-stage, his response set off new dance frenzy. Peaking at number five on New York’s Top 30 Reggae Singles, and number eight on South Florida’s Top 20 Reggae Singles, Ding Dong’s bouncy “Badman Pull Up” anthem is at the top of the latest round of Jamaican tunes and dances hitting the international scene. From the “Butterfly” to the “Rockaway” (Leanback) to the “Willy Bounce” to the “Badman Pull Up”, Jamaican dance styles have had a strong presence in mainstream pop culture. The man behind camera in some of the island’s leading urban music videos, including the original footage for the mainstream smash “Footprints” by T.O.K., shines the video light on the culture that gives rise to Jamaica’s phenomenal urban dance scene. “It’s All About Dancing“ is Jason “Jay Will” William’s debut ‘dance-u-mentary’ film, documenting the inner-city cultural movement known as Dancehall.
Much like Hip Hop in America, Dancehall is the voice of Jamaica’s sufferers, those trapped in the system of poverty, violence, corruption, and hopelessness. Far more in-depth than the usual how-to-dance instructional video, Jay Will takes you straight to these streets, from the late great dance icon Gerald “Bogle” Levy’s house on Black Roses Corner to the weekly Passa Passa street dance in Tivoli Gardens, giving viewers a real slice of the life behind the dance – the fashion, slang, music, characters, and livelihood. “It’s All About Dancing is a dance-u-mentary that shows the average viewer how Dancehall is structured,” explains Jay Will. “Who the key players are, from the producers to the dancers to the artists to the man selling peanuts in the dance, a look at everyone and everything who plays a part.”
Peppered with interviews and dance sessions, the video features the likes of dancers Ding Dong, Kivo Akiba, Ice, Sadiki, and John Hype; Dancehall DJs Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Macka Diamond, and Mr. Vegas; producer Scatta Burrell; sound selectors Tony Matterhorn, Richie Feelings, Foota Hype, and Takuso, who take the viewer from Jamaica to Japan and all places in between, showing how Dancehall has moved from the depths of the island’s impoverished across geographic, language, and cultural barriers to become one of Jamaica’s biggest exports. “Worldwide, people love our dancing,” Dancehall dj/singer Sacha points out in the film. “Its because we create our own things, we don’t follow style, we create style.”
For It’s All About Dancing, Jay Will Films’ first full-length feature, Jay Will aimed to make an authentically Jamaican film that appealed to international mainstream culture without watering down the rough and raw edges of Dancehall. “I didn’t want to be a sell-out and make a washout video,” Jay Will explains. “I wanted to make it suitable for the mainstream MTV audience, but at the same time I wanted to make it hardcore so that the toughest man down a yard would want to pick it up. I wanted to make something that appeals to everybody.” Focusing on the dancing aspect of Dancehall, Jay Will wrapped the often coarse and crude aspects of the culture into a universally palatable package for pop consumption. The video demonstrates what distinguishes Jamaican dance from other cultures is the culture of dance—the colorful slang, the innovation in style and fashion, the wide range of high energy movements, and the inspiration behind the dances themselves. Motivated by cartoons, natural disasters, animals, and just about everything you can imagine, dancers have come up with everything from the “Superman” to the “Santa Bounce” to the “Ivan” to the “Airforce One” to the “Over the Wall” dances. Jay Will pays special homage to the late great Bogle aka Mr. Wacky, who referred to himself as the “history of the dance,” with a special memorial dance session and tribute to the man whose innovation in style and dance, unusual and often wacky catch-phrases are largely responsible for dance becoming prominent in Jamaica and abroad.
With this film, as with his music video production work, Jay Will has sought to take the island’s video industry up a notch, to make it more competitive internationally. “What’s lacking in the industry is money,” he says. “If more money was being spent in Jamaica with the local producers there would be more opportunity to compete with the international videos. You have some hot material that has a buzz overseas, but because of limited resources people abroad don’t see it. A lot of time record companies don’t have budgets for videos, and the artists have to use their rent money to do a shoot.” A former producer for MTV networks, Jay Will is using his professional experience to refine the art of film and video making on the island. “A lot of people in Jamaica have this hustle mentality,” Jay Will notes. “They would shoot a video today, edit tonight, release it to a public access cable show, and shoot another one the next day. I on the other hand will spend several days on shooting and editing one video, just to make sure it is done properly. Showing a good product is the only way MTV or BET or the other major music video outlets is going to recognize us.” Instead of a “street DVD,” Jay Will asserts that he set out to make a well conceptualized, well directed, well produced documentary for major distribution with outlets like Tower Records and Barnes and Noble. “This is very different from ‘How Fi Dance Reggae’ or other Jamaican street DVDs. This is meant for major worldwide distribution, in Japan, in New York, in Jamaica, everywhere.”
“This DVD is a masterpiece.” Speaking in her native language, Japanese, Kivo Akiba, the 2004 Dancehall Queen runner-up emphasizes that through It’s All About Dancing, “You can feel Jamaica.”
(Singing) I’m here! So have no fear…(laughing) a new song dat mi a go build. Yeah man! Give Thanks.