SFU becomes first Canadian university to offer Jamaican Dancehall courses to students

November 23, 2017

Jamaica-born, Vancouver-based dancer and choreographer, Mikhail Morris, has embarked on a new venture – he’s teaching a new course on Jamaican dancehall—the first time for this style of dance to be taught as part of a university program—at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

Morris, 28, is teaching “CA 120: Introduction to Dance Forms: Contemporary and Popular Subject: Dancehall History and Fundamentals”, at the Vancouver campus.

The course is a combination of theory and dance.  Morris created the curriculum to teach the socio-historical factors that inspired the creation of reggae and dancehall music and culture.

Students attain a better understanding of Jamaican culture and living experiences expressed through the actual music and dance. Students learn and practice the dancehall dance steps and listen to the music to contextualize the lyrics, and concepts for the steps.

Using dancehall vocabulary as a foundation, Morris said he grew up around dancehall culture and has seen how people fought to celebrate it.

Often associated with “low-culture” due to historical political tensions in Jamaica, it has been a challenge for the dance to gain acceptance as a true and valid cultural art form. Thus, for SFU to have created an actual course that teaches the history and fundamentals of dancehall, is a huge step in the right direction. There are very few university institutions that have this kind of programming available for their students.

The history of Jamaica with its convergence of peoples from varied cultural background created a solid foundation for the emergence of dancehall; dance and music. This same history has also made it possible for dancehall to extend its boundaries beyond the small island state of Jamaica to the rest of the world.

SFU offers Jamaican Dancehall, Hip Hop, and Bhangra in the three Vancouver/BC Lower Mainland campuses. These three cultural forms reflect the growing interest that students have in alternate dance techniques.

The course runs in the fall semester from September to December.  Current or prospective students who are interested in the course can connect with an advisor at the School for the Contemporary Arts at fpaadv@sfu.ca