‘Dances are Changing’: Barrington Levy Tells It


From the various ska moves to the jiggy dancehall varieties there is much to see, experience and learn of Jamaican dance moves. A fascinating encounter with Dr. Dennis Howard recently reminded me of the very powerful historical record that lies in the recordings of reggae and dancehall. We were discussing Johnny Osbourne and Barrington Levy recordings, both of which came as proof to counter various arguments regarding the emergence of music and dance varieties / genres.

‘Its strange how the dances are changing,

but its only bubbling that the young girls love plenty of,

Sharon mi waan yuh fi bubble wid me,

Carol mi waan yuh fi dance wid me

Audrey mi waan yuh fi skank wid me,

Shoulder Move, Body Move, Butterfly

nuh tell no lie…’

Barrington Levy says he wants ‘Carol fi chuku chuk chuk, and Sharon fi chaka chak chak.’ Mention today of such dances would be foreign words to the younger ‘daggering’ generation. For most familiar with dancehall, the butterfly would immediately bring images of the 1992 dancehall scene with Carlene ‘The Dancehall Queen’  at the centre of the aesthetic that was later immortalised in the film Dancehall Queen.


What shouldn’t miss one in the song however is that the dance butterfly mentioned in this 1983 recording confirms that it existed before both Bogle’s and Carlene’s claims to have invented the dance. In fact, Carlene’s less believable story is that she was sitting in Central Park, NY, when observation of a butterfly in flight precipitated her creation in two phases.


Barrington Levy – Dances Are Changing

Yes, according to Barrington Levy, dances are changing, but in reality they are within the body memory and collective dance repertoire waiting to emerge. Examples from limbo to butterfly are known, not to mention the classic and frequent ‘versions’ of many nameless moves.

As to the ‘lay the block’ and ‘lay the rim’ varieties we have witnessed in the last few months within events such as Famous Wednesdays, more on that later…. Stay tuned.



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