This week we have a conversation with Jessica Phoenix the organizer of the 2014 Fiyah Dance Weekend New York fundraiser for veteran Jamaican dancehall dancer, Mundo. He is in need of a kidney transplant. Jessica recently returning from another trip to Jamaica, where she continues to meet Jamaican dancers, choreographers and prominent figures in the scene and experiences the authenticity and history of Jamaican Dancehall. She had the honor of teaching at DanceJA and giving the National Dancehall Ensemble dancers a hip hop master class. In her 2013 trip, Phoenix was the only American guest instructor teaching at the International Dancehall Homecoming Event and landing 3rd place in the first-ever International Dancehall Championships. With this experience, inspiration, opportunity and support, Jessica has decided to finally carry out her dreams. Jessica is the owner of FIYAH Productions, LLC which produced FIYAH! Dancehall Theater, a full production of Dancehall dance, music, and storytelling on the stage! It premiered in November 2013 at Roulette Theater and again in Spring 2014.
Jessica grew up dance training in Maryland and DC. From there moved to Atlanta after college, landing her first major job with MTV Networks National commercial featuring International Artist K’Naan. Jessica has toured nationally with Universoul Circus and King Michael. After a touring, a couple years before moving to NYC, she landed a principle role in a production by iLuminate, finalists of America’s Got Talent and continues today performing nationally and internationally on iLuminate Company’s corporate team.
Q: What is your connection to Jamaica?
Connection to Jamaica is in my heart. I am a proud American born to African American parents grew up in the DMV area where there is quite a large West Indian community. Would go to the Caribbean Carnival every year, always eat at the Jamaican eatery, began going out to the Dancehall parties in high school and college…more and more just felt my own feeling with the culture and wanted to continue learning. So I did.
Q:How did you get involved in Dancehall music and dancing?
Just been around it alot growing up and took a liking to the feeling it had. Began going to more parties, dances, clubs…took to the dance floor where it seemed the real dancers were and it went from there. Started learning the moves, the names, the people, the style… All the way up until now where I am fortunate enough to make trips to Jamaica to truly get an idea of where it all comes from.
Q: Tell us about the Fiyah Dance Weekend New York fundraiser and who it will benefit?
Fiyah for a Cause dance weekend is to benefit Mundo Ravers and raise money for a kidney transplant. Mundo himself will attend the event so people can talk with him personally and he can feel the love and support up close.
It is a 3 day weekend filled with dance and several other surprises.
On Friday night all ladies are welcome to a sexy dance workshop, special performance and more at Manhattan’s Ripley Grier Studio. For the weekend, the Fiyah moves to special host Breakin Boundaries studio in Brooklyn.
Saturday night will kick off with a hip hop popping class ending with an open floor freestyle session with Live DJ.
Sunday is a full day of dance and fitness classes. 2 rooms with great instructors offering Zumba, yoga, hip hop, Dancehall, Afro caribbean dance, and more. Then will begin an evening full of surprises and celebration for Mundo, including special guests from Jamaica John Bling and Latonya Style, a fashion show, dance off and more.
Q: Tell us more about Mundo?
Mundo is a veteran Dancehall Dancer from Jamaica. Mundo was born Ricardo Gordon and a member of the Nannyville popular group Ravers Clavers and Above a Dem Squad. Creator of Follow thru and Sassa Step. He has struggled with FSGS for several years now, saying he first discovered it in 2007.
Q: How can those who are not attending the Fiyah Dance Weekend New York fundraiser help?
They can donate directly to Mundo using information on DanceJA’s site
Q: What is the dollar goal you are trying to reach for the event?
As much as possible! His transplant operation alone costs $60,000! There is no limit. This man needs our support.
Q: Will Fiyah Dance Weekend be an annual event?
This is a first time event specific to Mundo’s benefit and directly focused and in support of his struggle with FSGS. However, there are talk of plans to do other Fiyah Fundraiser weekends in the future.
Q: What can we expect this yea at Fiyah Dance Weekend ?
All in all you can expect lots of Fiyah! Positive energy, good vibez and a diverse display of art fashion music and dance. 3 days of Fiyah fun!
Q: What does dancehall dancing mean to you?
Maybe difficult to put in words, but it is a feeling, an emotion, an energy that has grown from inside my spirit and bursts out of my heart.It is history, culture, foundation and freedom that I continue to learn and embrace daily.
Q: Do you think there is enough being done to pass on Caribbean history to the next generation?
Possibly…not sure there is one answer. With my background as an African American woman in US, I can feel the same feelings. Sometimes with these cultural histories, our past can get lost, misplaced or misunderstood.
Q: What other projects and events are you working on?
With the success of the big debut of the first Fiyah Dancehall Theater in NYC in November 2013 and Spring 2014, I can say the production will be bringing more Dancehall Theater Productions to the stage. I have a few teaching and performance projects coming up with NYC’s Broadway Dance Center, Washington D.C. and Atlanta in these next couple months. As well as several countries overseas in 2015. Looking forward to how far, how wide and how many people i can reach with Fiyah.
Q: My favorite dancehall musical artist is..
Oh my goodness! Truly depends on the mood and the emotion I need to dance out, whether it be sad, happy, angry, sexy…Some of my favorites, Mavado, RDX, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Voicemail, Lady Saw
Q: My favorite dancehall dancer is..
Hmmmm, so many well have to big up the master Bogle may he rest in peace and respect to all the veterans. I also love the inspiration from the new school younger dancers and groups too. As I continue my Jamaica trips it is always so amazing to continue to meet and dance in person with so many of the authentic Jamaican Dancehall Dancers I have looked up to, studied or admired over the years. This past trip I was able to soak up the vibez being around Boysie Roses, Colo Colo, Stacia Fyah, Orville, Famous Colo, Shelly Belly, and so many more.
Q: If I wanted to impress a visitor to New York with the best Jamaican food I would take them to….
Well, I would take them to a friends house to taste their Jamaican born mother’s or Grandmother’s cooking!
Q: Thanks for the time. Where can we learn more about the Fiyah Dance Weekend?
Open registration to sign up and pay for the event is at https:// fiyahformundo.eventbrite.com. You can like the FB page for the company Fiyah Productions Dancehall Theater. And can always email me.
For more information on their website, facebook page, twitter etc.