The world is fascinated with Jamaican Dancehall. The dances, the culture, the outright passion and sexuality of the it make the world sit up and pay attention. From Korean dance troupes coming to Jamaica to learn the latest dancehall moves, to celebrities including Nicole Scherzinger choreographing a routine to a Sean Paul hit, the world loves a driving dancehall rhythm.
Although many of these dances are more commercialized now, the vibe of the old school neighbourhood corner dance is still alive. For someone not from Jamaica, or even from the neighbourhoods, a session or “dance” (Jamaican for dancehall party) can be an assault on the senses. The way some of the women are handled on the floor can be offensive to outsiders while some sessions are best only attended with a local connection from the area as an escort. The more organized dances on Constant Spring Road may be a better place to start as your introduction to the real Jamaican Dancehall culture.
To help you navigate your way through the most authentic street dances on the island’s best nights, here is a list of the most popular dancehall sessions in Jamaica.
Sundays come alive on Hillview Avenue between 10pm to 2am. Be a spectator or jump into the action yourself to truly make this a once in a lifetime experience. There is a cover cost of a “nanny” – that’s street slang for JMD$500 – so walk with some cash to get in and feed your thirst at the bar when you need a break.
Get Here: The Plaza at 8 Hillview Avenue in Kingston
The parking lot at Southdale Plaza on Constant Spring Road jumps into full gear every Monday night. Get there early enough for sweet treats and a soup from Susie’s Bakery. A favourite with tourists, you’re likely to see a dreadlocked, sandal wearing American vibing to the music next to the towering block of speakers, while next to him a Japanese girl is busy ‘brukkin out’ with the latest moves she came to Jamaica on this trip to learn.
Get Here: 1 Southdale Plaza, Constant Spring Rd.
One of the most ‘show off’ dancehall sessions around, at Nipples Tuesdays you will see the latest moves happening on roof tops, tree tops and table tops. This isn’t a chill vibe, this is where people come to strut their stuff and prove who has the best moves. Most amazingly is that, at 7 am, the dance is still going strong. This is one of the more hardcore dance venues around and the neighbourhood can be unstable; best to go with a guide or someone from the area.
Get Here: Waterhouse Kingston. Spanish Town Road goes west from Downtown towards Spanish Town and Washington Boulevard goes in a similar direction from north Kingston. Those two main roads merge at Six Miles where there is a flyover and taxi stand. Waterhouse is by Spanish Town Road not far from Six Mile.
‘Weddi Weddie’ Wednesdays
Weddi Weddie is a fixture in Kingston’s 21st century street dance culture. So significant is this session in Jamaican dancehall culture it even has a dance move by the same name. If you are visitng to have an authentic dancehall experience in Jamaica, this is a must-attend event if only for its direct relation to Stone Love, the most iconic sound system in Jamaica, founded in 1972, this dance is held at their headquarters.
Get Here: Burlington Avenue in Kingston
A throwback to the best of 90s dancehall, Pepperseed attracts a more seasoned, mature crowd than most street dances that currently happening. Bonus: it’s free to enter!
Get Here: Pulse Complex at 38a Trafalgar Road in Kingston.
On Thursday nights, West Street in Port Antonio comes alive at the Roadblock HQ BAR for Roadblock Thursdays. This street dance features a clash of DJs from all across the island.
Get Here: Right in the heart of the town of Port Antonio, you won’t be able to miss the sound system but you can always ask for directions.
There’s no cover charge for Whopping Thursdays at Mahoe Drive in Cockburn Pen, Kingston, but make sure to bring some Jamaican cash for drinks at the bar and jerk chicken after hours. Sample a bit of history knowing this dance was created to bring the community together after gang warfare, when it was started by Bobby ‘Phantom’ Kerr.
Get Here: Mahoe Drive in Cockburn Pen
The weekend tradition of Container Saturdays is one of the most organised street dances around, and only requires a small entrance fee. It’s a sponsored event by Magnum Tonic Wine and full of wicked dancehall vibes.
Get Here: D’Entrance at 107 Constant Spring Road