Arts & Culture

Dancehall course for Canadian university

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada, has added a new course on Jamaican dancehall to its roster.

FPA 120: Introduction to Dance Forms: Contemporary and Popular Subject: Dancehall History and Fundamentals, is to be taught at the university's Vancouver campus by Jamaican-born dancer and choreographer Mikhail Morris.

The course is a combination of theory and dance. Morris created the curriculum to teach the socio-historical factors that inspired the creation of reggae and dancehall music and culture. The course also aims to assist students attain a better understanding of Jamaican culture and living experiences expressed through the actual music and dance. Students will learn and practise the dancehall dance steps and listen to the music to contextualise the lyrics, and concepts for the steps.

According to the university, using dancehall vocabulary as a foundation, Morris said he grew up around dancehall culture and has seen how people fought to celebrate it.

“Often associated with “low-culture” due to historical political tensions in Jamaica, it has been a challenge for the dance to gain acceptance as a true and valid cultural art form. Thus, for SFU to have created an actual course that teaches the history and fundamentals of dancehall is a huge step in the right direction. There are very few university institutions that have this kind of programming available for their students,” the university states on its website.

The history of Jamaica with its convergence of peoples from varied cultural backgrounds created a solid foundation for the emergence of dancehall; dance and music. This same history has also made it possible for dancehall to extend its boundaries beyond the small island state of Jamaica to the rest of the world.

Simon Fraser University offers Jamaican Dancehall, Hip Hop, and Bhangra on the three Vancouver/BC Lower Mainland campuses. These three cultural forms reflect the growing interest that students have in alternate dance techniques.

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