Monday, 11 December 2017

WAKE THE TOWN: New LTM pantomime pumps up the volume on Jamaica’s world-famous dancehall culture

CROWDAPEOPLE: The 'Selecta' plays a pivotal role in the local dancehall - and in the upcoming LTM production.

JAMAICAN dancehall culture has broken barriers internationally (influencing hip-hop, inspiring filmmakers, invading Japan), continuing the tradition of Jamaican music taking the world by storm. But on the local scene, certain negatives threaten to overshadow the strong attributes dancehall brings to the entertainment landscape. With this in mind, Barbara Gloudon has put pen to paper, melody to lyrics, to place this zone of conflict, merriment and noises in the blood at the centre of the 2017 LTM National Pantomime, Dapper Dan: The Anansi Man.

“The dancehall in Jamaica has become far more than we could have imagined, even appearing in several parts of the world. Jamaicans have gone to Europe to teach dancehall, so it has become a source of entertainment and education,” Gloudon tells TALLAWAH, sitting behind her work desk at the Little Theatre Complex.

But make no mistake, dancehall is also a profitable business. This season’s title character is a shrewd businessman and big spender, who is using his dollars and immense influence to champion the positives that dancehall has to offer. “It’s a reflection of what is happening in today’s society,” Gloudon points out. “But the idiom of dancehall is carried throughout. The dancehall can be a space for enjoyment and certain ills like violence, but what Dapper Dan is saying to the people is that the negativity will destroy the dancehall. Enough of the slackness. You have to learn to dance ah yard before you go abroad.”

The musical production, currently at the height of preparation for its big Boxing Day premiere, also sheds light on such issues as citizens’ rights and the critical role of the police in maintaining the peace, law and order. There are colourful characters in abundance, not least among them the no-nonsense Sarge and Woman Officer, the Selecta, the vendors and, of course, the dancing-up-a-sweat party girls.

And don’t be fooled by the Anansi reference of the title; this ‘Dan’ has no tricks up his sleeve. “Like Anansi, he knows how to get around and get things done,” explains Gloudon, who is re-teaming with director Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke, costume mistress Anya Gloudon and other Pantomime regulars to give the show its juice. Stage regulars Kevin Halstead, Faith Bucknor, Nicole Taylor-Thompson and a handful of fresh faces make up the diverse cast, a blend of youth and experience. 

The show’s core lessons, Gloudon emphasizes, can’t be missed. “Dapper Dan is a memo to young Jamaicans, in particular,” she says, “about upholding certain standards and doing what is expected of you. Learn fi dance ah yard before you go abroad.” 

> Dapper Dan: The Anansi Man opens December 26 at the Little Theatre

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