Females entered the venue free and males paid $800, but all Patrons were expected to buy their liquor and other beverages. Upon entering the venue the approximately 70 persons (including myself) instinctively occupied the periphery or outskirts of the dancehall space. The camera man or operator of the “video light” immediately highlighted or perhaps, welcomed patrons. Some persons were sipping from cups, some bottles, the others were either not drinking or heading to the bar. The music was not current, the DJ played oldies, in the dancehall, the music 'retrospect' when juggling is important, it simply 'warms-up' the crowd and get patrons ready to have a great time. It was relatively 'early' for the participants to be in their full element.
At approximately 1:00 am, several of the core participants specifically the dancers occupied the middle of the dancehall space. From 2:00 am onwards, the venue was clogged with a number of revelers: Locals and Americans jostle with Japanese dancehall-queen wannabes. An important scene is the scantily-clad video girls gyrating and mouthing the lyrics to every song often dancing and glancing at their rear or touching their pubic areas. Male dancers with names like Cowboy, sponge-bob and flavor squad, mostly clad in skinny jeans and fitted t-shirts, dance in clusters, their movements synchronized.
Donna Hope, in her book gave a stimulating explanation for the current mode of dress of the male in the dancehall; “In this eclectic mix of postmodern styles of dress and fashions, the use of sartorial fashion and styles is an important method of claiming masculine status and person hood within the globalized swirl of images, ideals and identities that form the contemporary terrain on which race and gendered identities are constructed and maintained”.
Vendors outside hawk peanuts, candy and snacks; the affable, bearded "weedman,", move through the crowd cautiously offering dried marijuana stalks that sell themselves. At this point some persons were fully intoxicated, while other were getting there, this was caused from the variety of drinks both hard liquor and soft drinks being sold; most persons had at least one drink. This was a part of the 'celebratory' ritual in dancehall. Booze is a a must have at these events, mainly to rid the mind of the world outside the party, and have a 'nice' feeling. The DJ of Stone love , the 'hype selector' of the party that night stepped behind the DJ booth and whipped the crowd into hair-pulling frenzy as he spun the latest club tracks- My Cup, Kartel's 'touch a button' and Move dem up, chanting ribald lyrics about cunnilingus, 'loose' women and homosexuality. It was observed that several of these dancers used marijuana and alcohol before they began their rituals.
This particular dancehall stage was pre-occupied with allowing everyone to have a moment to shine/make their bread or “get a buss”. This was indicative by the presence of vendors who were unrestricted in selling their goods (such as marijuana, sweets, cigarettes etc). “The Dancehall event celebrates birth, victory, anniversary, death, relationships, memory, and its accompanying norms around music, food, drink, dance and spontaneity constitute the rituals with which Afro-Jamaicans replaced lost African rituals" ,quoted from @CultureDoctor's book: 'Dancehall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto'
It was also illustrated when they allowed Baby Cham a popular Jamaican dancehall artiste to promote his new song and give his praises or “big up” to his supporters. New songs as well as new dances and other upcoming dancehall events were given a moment in the spotlight by the DJ, no matter how overbearing it was on patrons. The patrons at the event praised key supporters of dancehall culture such as Aidonia, Bling Dog, Bounty Killer, Macka diamond, Ghost and Richie Stephens as well as the owner of the sound system to which the DJ belonged.
To note when these persons entered the venue, it was no secret, a part from the 'selector' announcing it, even if we didn't know who they were, we would have by the parting of the crowd and stares in the direction by persons already in the venue. This acknowledging that a 'bigga head' (according the one patron “enter di venue suh we haffi see wah him a where and dem ting deh'. Then these known faces of dancehall would stand with an entourage of body guards and groupies, just profiling. Baby Cham, on the microphone also encourage the crowd to continue enjoying the vibe within that dancehall space. Any disrespect of the social order that existed in that forum was not tolerated, for example overcrowding of the dj’s boothe or staying too long on the microphone was viewed as a “diss ting” or something to be frowned upon. It is not uncommon to hear the selector calling his crowd to respond by the showing of hands to, among other liturgical incantations, “from a bwoy nuh badda dan you, han up inna di air” [put your hand in the air if you are the baddest], or put your hand in the air if you “have yu owna man” [have your own man], “if you hole no condemn” [if your vagina is not condemned]", quoted from @CultureDoctor's book again.
One could see a dynamic relationship between the DJ and the dancers and rest of the patrons. It was as if both parties were feeding off each other's energy, knowing exactly what each other wanted to see and hear. The dancers consisted of 98% males trying to out do each other in from of the 'video light'.
By the end of the night, having no idea what a Dancehall was, one would be able to observe some of dancehall’s core participants in a dancehall environment and observe some of their rituals such as the one that takes place in front of the video light, for example dancers showing off new dances, girls showing off their clothes and hair styles, and person’s boasting over their status or accomplishments. One element that was highly anticipated but was missing from this event was the lack of a sufficient display of sexuality (synonymous with dancehall culture) within that dancehall space,resulting from the lack of man and woman dancing or “daggering”.
Dr Niaah (yes, the same @CultureDoctor :D ) states that “the dance is not just an event; it is a system of rules and codes, an institution. Women adorn themselves according to the dictates of the current Dancehall fashion. Patrons are aware of the latest dance moves, latest songs, debates and artistes. There are salutations, tributes and paying of respect. Validation is signaled in specific ways — cigarette lighter flashes, gun salutes, or saying ‘pram pram’ or ‘boukaya’ for instance as signs of approval.”
Although dancers are some of the major actors within the dancehall stage they expressed that they were not getting the respect that they deserved especially from the djs. They saw themselves as important to the existence and maintenance of the dancehall culture but stated that there were too many rivaling dancers within the dancehall space. New Dancers felt they were being “fought out” or opposed by Older more popular dancers. It was also observed that women did not enjoy the same level of appreciation from patrons as the male dancers did. Consequently dancehall can be seen as reflecting a more wider predominant ideology of gender inequality.
In essence, 'Dancehall' owes it's name to the above, the Jamaican Dance Hall, the space where persons some to express themselves, preform rituals and merely come to 'eat a food'.
Shout out to Dancehall, Dance Hall.
*does the 'dem-gyal' stand up*