Taking Jamaican dance to the worl’
WITH its buoyant manufacturing sector, Taiwan boasts one of the world's boom economies. Once a closed society, the Asian country has opened its doors to western lifestyle in recent years, with many youth embracing American hip hop and Jamaican dancehall culture.
From August 8 to 12, Taiwan hosted the Fyah To Di World dance seminar, a cultural exchange that attracted 175 participants from across Asia. Held in the capital Taipei, it was conducted by Jamaican dancers Chad 'Global Bob' Torrington and Orville Hall, founder of the Dance Expressionz group.
The five-day event, according to Torrington, was not limited to dancehall.
"We presented much more than dancing; the people want things they can't get on YouTube," he said. "They want to know about Jamaican lifestyle and the history of our dance moves."
Most of the attendees (ages ranged from 14 to 38) were from the host country. Smaller 'teams' came from China, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
"Some wanted to learn the dance steps, some wanted to keep fit, others want to know the history. All of dem focused...Yuh could hear a pin drop," Torrington reported.
Taiwan has followed the Japanese into the world of Jamaican dance. Many Japanese youth moved to Jamaica and learned the latest dance moves, becoming so adept they have won local competitions.
Fyah To Di World was organised by the Taiwanese company Raggaflu. One of its principals is Jill Chen, who described the seminar as "very powerful and touching".
She commented on the popularity of dancehall in her country.
"Years ago it was pretty hard for us because we can only learn it by YouTube or Internet sources. Now it's more popular because we are trying to bring what is real to everybody," she told the Sunday Observer.
"We started to invite dancers from the USA, France and finally we have the chance to invite dancers from Jamaica."
Chen says there are dancehall groups in major cities like the capital, Hsinchu, Taichung and Tainan. Members of those groups were present at Torrington and Hall's lectures.
The duo demonstrated an array of dance moves going back to the 1970s. They included the S90 Skank, John Crow Skank and the Della Move, as well as the Bogle, Worl' Dance, Sesame Street and Gully Creeper.
Bogle and Worl' Dance were created by the flamboyant Gerald 'Bogle' Levy in the 1990s when dancehall culture moved into the American mainstream. The Gully Creeper, choreographed by David Alexander 'Ice' Smith, gained an international profile when sprinter Usain Bolt performed it after his victories at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Fyah To Di World is the latest dance seminar for the 27-year-old Torrington. He conducted 'classes' in Argentina , Brazil and Poland this year and has another round of events scheduled for Europe in October.
Though the Wolmer's High School and University of Technology graduate has been globetrotting since 2012, he says seeing the enthusiasm to learn about Jamaican dance still bowls him over.
Performing in faraway countries for people of different cultures is no longer just a song and dance.
"I don't represent just Global Bob, I represent Jamaica . From what I see out there, there will always be a demand for our culture."