Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Cindy Claes Dancehall discovery in Jamaica

August, 2011...
I can see Killa Bean waving in the distance.  He is running towards me with a huge smile!  He is so proud not to be late today.  He is actually one hour early!  We eat some rice and peas and jerk chicken and wait for the others to arrive.  There they are: Fabian, Norris, Bradley and Karl.  Some of them walked for an hour and half to get here, and will do so again to go back home.  Under the heat and the burning sun, with no money in their pockets to pay for the bus fare, they were determined to come to the “Dancehall Theatre” class.

(I am passionate about Hip-Hop Theatre and believe this art form has a huge power to transform the world we live in.  As a “street dancer” we are often told the only way to make a living from our art is to work for the commercial sector.  I do not have any academic training in dance, I actually have an MA in sociology and anthropology.  But somehow, along the way, I was blessed to discover the theatre world.  When I discovered I could tell stories through dance, make political statements with Hip-Hop, make people laugh with Krump, initiate debates using Dancehall moves, I tapped into something that truly made me fly!  I felt I was an “artist” who had things to say.  I had creativity bubbling inside me and it needed to be expressed in a theatrical and intellectual way.  After many years, became a dance theatre maker myself.  So, I wanted to give other dancers, who do not attend academic training in dance, the opportunity to develop their artistry.  This is how I started the Dancehall Theatre project in Jamaica.)

Edna Manley College in Kingston offered me free rehearsal space and here we were: Supreme Blazers crew and me, exploring concepts and narratives to be told through Dancehall.  They were initiated to new ways of thinking while I perfected my dancehall skills.  M.O.B, Supreme Blazers, Chelcia and her lil homies from Portmore, gave me so much knowledge and shared it with a huge amount of passion.

That’s what “dancehall” is about. Teaching each other the latest moves and sharing the love for the dancehall.  Jamaican dancers are extremely welcoming.  They love sharing their culture with those who appreciate it.

Dancehall is a daily celebration of creativity.  New moves are being created as we speak.  The movement vocabulary is very very very rich!

Today, I miss Jamaica.  I miss Kingston.  I miss the parties, the friends I made, the accent, the patois I do not understand and the ackee and salt fish they only serve early in the morning.  I remember walking up and down the streets frenetically trying to find my favorite meal... but as I rarely woke up before 8am, my only choice was to try again the next day.

I watch all videos people post and try to keep up with the richness of the Dancehall movement.  So many steps have been added to this huge encyclopedia of dance, and its only been 8 months since I last went.  It makes me smile.  This culture is so dynamic and ever-changing.  Dancehall has its own history, but at the same time, we are creating the history of Dancehall now.  I wonder which steps will survive over the years, and I wish humanity could remember them all, as each move is a legacy to the dancers never-ending bubbling creative minds.

I am very excited to start teaching Dancehall on a weekly basis in London!!  I hope to eradicate stereotypes many have about Dancehall.  Whereas booty shaking and dancehall queen competitions are certainly part of the culture, there is so much more to discover.  I hope to bring a new understanding of the art form, share its technique, and spread the love for a dance which is SO RICH in history and movement quality.

Classes held at Maryland Studioz Tuesday 8.30-10pm. 
84-86 Leytonstone Road,
E15 1TQ

VIDEO - The Dancehall Theatre Project in Kingston/Jamaica:
VIDEO: dancehall workshops with Cindy:


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

New Dancehall teacher Cindy Claes: Backpacking in Jamaica

New Dancehall teacher Cindy Claes: Backpacking in Jamaica

I always dreamed of going to Jamaica and experience the “real thing”. I am a caucasian
white female dancer and a lonely traveller. I am a grown up woman but I still look like
an innocent teenager with dimples. With all the horror stories about gun men luring in
Kingston, no need to say nobody ever encouraged me to go for my dreams!

Let me resume my journey as follows: At first, I was perceived as a cute dreamer longing
to visit Kingston. When I got all funds sorted and booked my flight, people stopped in
shock and thought I was an irresponsible nutter risking her life in the “hoods”. Finally,
when I came back from Jamaica alive, full of anecdotes of my performances and about
the friends I made, I was a true inspiration for some, and I guess a miraculous survivor for

In 2010, I received a small grant from ADAD. And so... I went for the first time! My
purpose was calling me...

June, 2010...
It’s still hot because the sun has been shining all day. Mosquitoes tattooed every bit of
bare skin they found on me with some big red dots. No choice but to hide the disaster.
I’m wearing some leggings which kinda ruins the sexiness of my batty riders, but so it is. I
run downstairs while putting on some lipstick and jump in the car. The dance crew picks
me up and we drive off to “the dancehall session”... well... the first one of a long series! It’s
1am and the night only started. The first club is in the open air. You feel the heat and the
wind only breezes when it wants to. A big tree stands on the right of the dance floor. We
jam on some reggae tunes and all the girls whine slowly on the mellow-mellow dancehall
tracks. People calmly sip on their beers.
Suddenly, the whole crowd leaves and decides it’s over. It’s 2am. Time to go to the
next party! Taxis and cars head towards the same direction. We arrive, park quickly
and walk in with elegance and assurance. The dancehall session is outdoors again.
It’s happening in some sort of parking lot. Every dance crew takes their stance around
the empty dancefloor. It’s dark. Only the blinding spotlight of the camera creates some
shadows in the now over-crowded place. The men have their sunglasses on, wearing
yellow skinny jean, green T-shirt and golden chains. The DJ is the master of ceremony.
He knows exactly in which order to play the riddims to get the crowd moving, whining,
going crazy or calming down. To express their excitement, people loudly hit and shake
the closed gates of surrounding shop windows. Without warning, every crew start fighting
for the spotlight, doing their latest dance moves in unison, trying to attract the attention of
the lens and pushing their way through to be caught on tape. The excitement gets me! I
jump in on every routine I know. I watch the dancers and realize they truly celebrate their
creativity, sharing with the world the steps they are the proud inventors of. The crowd
joins in the act of worshipping “dance”. Things calm down again and female bom cheeks
whine slowly on the side. Again, this only lasts a few minutes as immediately afterwards
the DJ screams on the mic, tells the ladies to bent over, and here we go... All the girls fall
into splits, they “bruk out” and take over the dance floor! Batty riders of all shapes and
colors are bouncing up and down! No man would dare intervening on the scene, they just
stand on the side holding their beer. The girls are proudly demonstrating their skills while

the camera man plays it naughty and zooms in. Things calm down, for a moment...
All of a sudden, the crowd leaves the place, again! Everyone rushes out. It’s over. It’s
4.30am, time for the next party! We drive over and all the cars seem to reach at the
exact same time. We enter a club. The police might come and shut down the place, or
we might party until the sun comes up, who knows... The dancers are on fire! Dance
moves, choreography, madness, humor and sweat invade the dancefloor. Beer is spilled
all over the place, buckets full of ice (to keep the drinks cold) are falling over. The floor is
a mess, but all of this does not matter, it’s daggering time! Men and women partner up,
girls bend over, men execute stunts, some people hang off the speakers, the DJ keeps
screaming, three woman go into headtops and whine. Choreography takes place again,
and everyone joins in. You got to know the moves, you want to know the moves! My
body is in trance, its madness everywhere, the riddims drive me crazy, the beat pours in
happiness in my soul... and in no time... it’s 7am... I think... clear daylight. Everyone head
towards the parking and we leave as if nothing ever happened.

That’s how I spent most of my nights in Jamaica. Not easy to keep up, I swear! All naps
were welcome and whenever I could, I closed my eyes for a few minutes and snored!
During the day I was dancing and training hard too. I studied the traditional dance forms
of Jamaica at Edna Manley College. I learned about the history of slavery, and the impact
it had on the arts. Also, Orville Hall, one of the most respected dancehall choreographers,
took me under his wing. I performed with Dance Xpressionz.

To all the female travelers out there, I would like to encourage you to follow your heart!
Are we women vulnerable when traveling on our own? Perhaps. I admit I do have a
guardian angel looking after me. But so do you, if you believe so. I wish you many safe
and magical dance trips!

VIDEO: dance backpacking in Jamaica: Click here to watch video
VIDEO: dancehall workshops with Cindy:Click here to watch video


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Proud London Studio

Here at Maryland Studioz we are proud to be situated in London. Most exiting of all on the doorstep on the London 2012 Olympics! Maryland Studioz in collaboration with Project G (Twitter: @ProjectGdance) and Myself (Twitter: @MyselfDance) will be taking part in the celebrations when the Olympic Torch comes to Newham on July 21st. So make sure your there to join the celebrations!

Here at Maryland Studioz we have three studio spaces, named after places in London...take a peek!

We have Brick Lane Studio:
Art by: Bakari @Ninjastah

We have City Studio:
Art by: Kenrick Sandy @KenrickH2o

We have Soho Studio:
Art by: Kenrick Sandy @KenrickH2o

We have various dance and fitness classes going on here, so check us out on Facebook Maryland Studioz Facebook and twitter @MarylandStudioz for updates!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


Maryland Studioz held there very own Danceathon to mark the countdown to the opening of the 2012 Olympic games.  Being based just around the corner from the Olympic sight in Stratford, East London it seemed the perfect reason to have a day of dance for the community.  It was a fun filled day with a "positive and friendly atmosphere" with back to back dance workshops.  A participants response when asked what did you like the last and why? was "I loved all of them".

Here is a snap shot of Skytilz
teaching Popping:

Teachers on the day included: Kenrick Sandy (Boy Blue Ent)
                                              Botis Seva (Far from the Norm)
                                              Bradley Charles (Streetdance 3D and Boy Blue Ent)
                                              Zumba (Petra)
                                              Nathaniel (Boy Blue Ent)
                                              Theo 'Godson' Oloyade (MrGodson)
                                              Skytilz (Boy Blue Ent)
                                              Chris Reyes (AliasLDN)
                                              Josh Franklin (New Movementz)
                                              Aleta (Myself)
                                              Kash Powell

It even made it into the Newham Recorder:

We were joined on the day by the brilliant charity Danceaid, that harnesses the energy of dance to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Take the time out to have a look at their website and see how you can support them:

After the day being so successful, and with many requests for another one, the Danceathon 2 is in the pipe line so keep an eye out!
To see what classes are being held at Maryland Studioz and for more events like this one 'Like' our Facebook Page: Maryland Studioz Facebook Page and Follow us on Twitter: @MarylandStudioz.
Our very first blog! How exiting.  The purpose for this blog is so that you can read reviews from people who may have hired Maryland Studioz.  Or even catch up about what has been going on here, so you don't miss out again! You get all the inside info on what goes down in the East London based studio. 

For those that haven't visited us before, here is a sneak peak tour of the studio. Click for your inside view of Maryland Studioz London 

Keep your eyes pealed for plenty more blogs and insights into your East London studio.