Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/ Illustratie Simone Golob
UM Sports opened the doors of the new university sports centre one year ago. Each week, Observant shows up in sports gear to participate in one of the sessions, and will do so until the summer. Today: dancehall walk-in.
The beginner: “Oh, Brahim, you should have told me that an hour ago!” When the lesson has finished, self-confidence has reached an all-time low, it appears that the reporter has gone up against very experienced students for sixty long minutes. “Yes, it is a walk-in, for beginners but also for those who are experienced; just by chance you found yourself in a group that has been practising since September,” dance teacher Brahim Oumou laughs.
It's a little after eight when everyone is standing in front of the mirror and Oumou puts on the first up-beat number. Dancehall is a dance style from Jamaica, a bit of hip-hop and street dance. “Don't you have any exams? No? I have made it extra easy today. If you cannot get to grips with this choreography, you’re a loser,” Oumou laughs.
Loser. The word haunts me. Completely contorted, I try to imitate something. It’s impossible. The pace is too fast. I see myself floundering in the mirror and sigh out loud. Oumou kindles enthusiasm: ‘Yes, lovely’, ‘sexy’. Sexy? Then you need to be with the blonde Dutch lady to the right at the back. She throws her hips loosely as if she was born in the tropics.
While the number Ohh Damn pounds through the hall, Oumou gives a short demonstration. Inimitable. Dancehall does make use of techniques, but more than that, it is a mix of tight and smooth movements that become one with the rhythm of the music. What's actually really funny, is the fact that those movements all have names. Like Cut dem off, as if you are chopping someone's head off, Hammer (hands together like a hammer), or Too kool, where you glide both of your hands over your upper body, like ‘nobody can touch me’. “You have to feel the music, don't think,” Oumou calls out. “Come on, nasty, stick your backsides out.” The last four minutes, when the choreography is danced in one go, I tell myself: this is Maastricht, not Jamaica. Me too kool.
The expert: “Dancehall, which is gaining popularity quickly in Europe, is based on strict rules. Respect the culture, respect the artist, show how it's done,” says Brahim Oumou. In the professional scene, instructors are very strict about the movements. No left leg up high when it should be the right leg. “It is also a very social dance, with groups of dancers performing in ‘halls’.” Many beginners think that dancehall is a kind of Zumba, “it's not. Zumba copied movements from dancehall. For that reason, dancehall fans feel Zumba is not respectful.” About the degree of difficulty of the moves: “You have to relax and have fun and not want to do everything perfectly.”
Target group: Everyone who loves to move, men and women.
The facts: Dancehall walk-in, Wednesday 20:00-21:00hrs