Choreographer to showcase dancehall theatre in Vancouver
By Neil Armstrong
A Jamaican dancehall choreographer, who presented the world premiere of his solo production in February in Toronto, is now part of a new dance company based in Vancouver and will introduce dancehall theatre to the city.
Over the last weekend in October, Mikhail Morris, 27, who produced “Dichotomy” at the Harbourfront Centre and had been teaching dancehall at City Dance Corps in Toronto, will premiere “Dancehall Donz & Divaz: Blood, Sweat, and Tears” in Canada’s third largest city.
Using dancehall vocabulary as a foundation, Morris said he grew up around dancehall culture and has seen how people fought to celebrate it.
He has performed with several Toronto-based dance companies, including Ballet Creole, COBA, KasheDance, Newton Moreas, and Nafro.
A dancer for 16 years, Morris said he wants to create opportunities for others to tell their story through their culture, history, technique and style.
Four months ago, he flew to Vancouver where he is working with Judy Madarasz at
Ketch Di Vybz (KDV), a company founded in 2015 and which they co-own with Madarasz as the marketing director and Morris as artistic director.
The new dance production promises to show what it feels like to live in the inner city and rural areas of Jamaica, as well as to “communicate the root of all the pain and poverty: the history of slavery in Jamaica.”
“The Donz and Divaz, played by our diverse cast, represent the men and women who fight each and every day through authenticity to protect their loved ones, culture, and ancestors who paved the way for them. By providing the backstory and cultural education on Jamaica and dancehall, this first production is the foundation for many future dancehall theatre shows to be produced by Ketch Di Vybz,” a press release said.
It will run on October 28 and 29 at the Faris Theatre in The Dance Centre in Vancouver.
The cast includes Morris, Kirby Rae Snell, Sophia Gamboa, Orin McRey, Shawn Cheng, Alyssa Amarshi, Martina Stancekova, and Colleen Cassidy.
Ketch Di Vybz notes that dancehall theatre showcases the diverse demographics of Jamaican society expressed through dance movements, emotions, and creative concepts.
It says dancehall culture is mostly known for its music and dance in mainstream entertainment yet there is much more richness to the culture to be shared.
“Dancehall theatre strives to educate deeper on the authentic histories, meanings, and realities of what dancehall and Jamaican culture is truly about,” it said.
It said dancehall is an entire lifestyle and culture that stems from the realities of pain and poverty in Jamaican society.
“To understand dancehall requires an understanding of authentic Jamaican culture and life,” it said.
The company has expanded to include dance training, dance theatre, artist and dance tour management, events, film, and photography.
It specializes in Jamaican Dancehall dance, Afro Contemporary, and West African dance.
The mission of Ketch Di Vybz is to fuel the passion, appreciation, and understanding of Jamaican culture, to uplift and authentically represent the dancehall dance genre, and to create innovative works of art and experiences that push humanity forward and inspire the next generation of youth.