We’re going to continue our topic of dance bringing us joy. Because why do something if it doesn’t bring you joy? Meet Jae Blaze, an award-winning choreographer, artistic director and creator of @JukGyal and @b2bdancehall. She brings eight counts of pure dance joy.
Do you do things, go places that bring you joy? Millennium Dance Complex brings me joy on Tuesdays for Back to Basics Dancehall and Fridays for Dancehall Femme Style. I turned 21 a couple decades ago so I’m not your typical Milllennium patron. But I go, I dance, and I have a fabulous time. Why? Jae Blaze. She’s Dancehall dynamite. Her classes explode with energy, a positive, “you can do this” type of energy. She cares about the authenticity of Dancehall and that her students learn not only the moves but the history of this dance genre. But above all, Jae’s the Dancehall expert, and her resume reads like a best seller.
Jae received the 2017 MTV Winner Best Choreography-Kanye West “Fade,”the 2006 MTV Award Hip Hop Video – Black Eyed Peas “My Humps” and was nominated for the 2003 MTV Best New Artist in a Video – Sean Paul “Get Busy.” She’s choreographed countless music videos for Rihanna, Kanye West, Nikki Minaj, Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Jordin Sparks, Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul and more. Jae has also choreographed several TV shows like “The Academy Awards,” “The Tonight Show,” “American Music Awards,” “X-Factor,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “BET Hip Hop Awards,” “Teen Choice Awards,” “MTV Video Awards,” “Dancing With The Stars” and too many more to list. She’s choreographed live stage performances and tours as well as film and commercials.
This is the caliber of choreographer we have at Millennium Dance Complex. You don’t have to take our word for it, just ask Vogue. Jae was recently featured on Vogue.com, highlighting the stories of 10 extraordinary groups of women at Millennium Dance Compex.
While we love her resume, we love her classes even more. Here are a few important reasons to take Jae Blaze’s Back to Basics Dancehall class on Tuesdays at Millennium Dance Complex.
1. It’s fun. It’s a welcoming forum for people of all ages, sizes, genders, race, and dance levels to meet new people, laugh for an hour and discover the beauty of Dancehall
2. It’s a great class to discover your weakness in dance. The class focuses on the foundation of Dancehall, how to breathe, your weight distribution, where the movements generate. That within itself tends to pin point weakness in the body and Jae is there to correct or at least help the student become aware of it. 3. The class instruction goes back to the fundamentals of the genre, from creation of Dancehall to the current steps we execute today.
Jae Blaze was the inspiration to get me to start dancing again. The no choreography grooves Dancehall class is special because it goes over moves so you do them correctly, plus it’s a cardio workout surrounded by fun people from all over. But what keeps folks coming back is that Jae gives the history of the moves, the music, and those ingenius folks who create these steps. It’s what we like to call Dancehall history grooves class.
Friday’s Femme Style Dancehall is new and it’s female-inspired moves. It’s “fun hard work,” as our dancer exchange students say. Jae comes around to make sure you’re getting the step, which often times mean you’re down deep and breathing in the correct spots. She teaches the moves pioneered by female Jamaican dancers and choreographers.
Jae and her fabulous assistant Benedetta have organized a trip to Jamaica to give her students first-hand experience of taking dance classes, from the source, where they’re made – from these female Jamaican dancers. It will be from November 10 to 17, 2019. The itinerary is packed full of fun with dance classes, cultural excursions, sampling the cuisine at local restaurants, hitting a few beaches, nightclubs and really embracing the “yard life.” If you’re interested in joining them, drop them an email or DM on Instagram @b2badancehall.
Why did you decide to do the Jamaica trip?
I decided to go to Jamaica for a few reasons. 1. Only so much can be taught in a classroom. I really wanted my students to experience what I talk to them about everyday. The connection of dance and the land, the people, the environment in its totality. They will have a better understanding of where the movement comes from. 2. I wanted to support the female choreographers in Jamaica. Around the world, A-list entertainers are performing moves created by these women. Unfortunately these Jamaican women do not get credit nor financial compensation for their choreography. Unlike their male counterparts who frequently tour Europe and Asia, these women are stunted and remain on the island due to political and structural restrictions. I want my students to see this. I want the world to become aware of their plight. I want to create a global movement that will assist in removing the limitations for these women so they can flourish in the genre and more importantly support their families from their creativity.
Can you tell us more about the female choreographers?
The female choreographers in Jamaica are extremely talented. As I said, they make up moves and choreography that is seen around the world however no one knows where it comes from, nor do people care to find out. Everyone just looks at it and says “Wow, that’s amazing!” Not knowing it comes from a people, a passion and a island full of potential. Many promoters across North America and Europe organize Jamaican trips. Where teachers/ instructors/ dancers/ choreographers take classes from Jamaican choreographers and then go to their hometown and teach the moves. In North America and Europe, we have the luxury of having dance studios, mirrors and overhead speakers meanwhile most of these JA women teach in their front yard. Those instructors who can’t take the trip to Jamaica learn their moves from Instagram. They then teach it in their classes. So again these JA choreographers don’t see that money from those classes. Huge workshops and conventions are held with several male JA choreographers and maybe one female. To add insult to injury, sometimes that one female isn’t even Jamaican but a student from a random country.
Is there a go fund me for the choreographers?
Currently there is no Go Fund me that I know of however I have created an Instagram hashtag called #10PercentChallenge. In this challenge I implore all choreographers/ dancers/ instructors to take 10 percent of their earning and send it to a female choreographer in Jamaica. Basically I contact the JA choreographer on IG for their information, go to Western Union and send them the money from my class. Until we can find a better way to support this initiative, this process will have to do. I am super open to suggestions on how to make this a global movement in support of female dancers everywhere. A young lady in Jamaica by the name of Kaytii Insanity has created an all women’s dance camp called “Yard Vibes” from July 15 to the 19, 2019. It will showcase the finest female talent in Jamaica. I believe its the beginning of a shift and will counteract the one-sided opportunities that are happening abroad. All the information for that camp is on her instagram @_yaadvibez.
Ever since taking your classes we’ve been hyper aware of dancehall music all around us. What are your thoughts on dancehall having more of a presence?
Dancehall has always been there and it will never stop even if America is the last one to acknowledge it on a popular scale. In Toronto, I choreographed Dancehall 3x for So You Think You Can Dance Canada. The first time Dancehall was featured on a North American stage meanwhile Sweden has it as a permanent genre on their version of the show. I choreographed countless videos, movies, commercials, even the Grammy performance of “Jai Ho” for “Slumdog Millionaire” where Dancehall was infused into the choreography. No one knew what it was but they just loved it!! And that’s the beauty of Dancehall. Its fun, its pure, its good vibe and overall feeling for everyone. I wish it had more of a presence in America, but I feel it’s like a sub genre like Krumping at one time. Eventually it will break through. Someone just needs to shoot a Dave Chapelle like movie about it or we need our version of a Madonna.
Do you have three words of advice for dancers new to Los Angeles?
I always advise to take a various classes. If you have been training in Ballet, take Dancehall, if you take African take Tap, Contemporary take Hip Hop. Confuse the body, learn a variety of movement and don’t stick to one style of class. Build your repertoire and be prepared to network because your talent is only half the battle.
Well, we pay attention to her advice. Zuzana, one of our visual artist exchange students, took Jae’s Dancehall class, loved it and continues to go back. Mind you, she’s never danced before coming to Los Angeles. She now takes other dance classes like Jae suggested and has added more to her weekly schedule, also dancing with our more experienced dancer exchange students. We now have a dance convert. We make sure to take all of our students to Dancehall class because Jae has a way of finding and bringing out your inner dancer. The beautiful point of Jae’s classes is that they are filled with all types of dancers – highly trained, new to L.A., experienced Dancehall dancers, all gender types and varying ages. The focus of her classes is on feeling Dancehall. And once you do, you find your joy.
Here’s the weekly schedule.
Tuesdays: @B2BDancehall 6:30pm at Millennium Dance Complex (@mdcdance)
Wednesdays: @B2BDancehall “Femme Step” 7pm DanceLineLA (@dancelinela)
Fridays: @B2BDancehall “Femme Step” at 6:30pm Millennium Dance Complex (@mdcdance)
Saturdays: @JukGyal at GTrain Fitness Centre (@GTrainFitness)
What’s Jukgyal? Why did you create this program?
The word JukGyal (pronounced jook-geyal ) has been around forever and has various meanings however I took it from the club setting where it comes from directions given from a DJ on the mic. For example, women would be in a club setting. The Dj would grab the mic and instruct the women on what dances to execute. “Jukking” is a signature dance move in Dancehall which requires the woman to thrust her hips forward. “Gyal” in the Jamaica dialect patois means girl or woman. This is most infamously heard in Jamaican Dancehall artist Elephant Man’s signature song “JukGyal.”
I created this program because I used to do privates with women who would comment how great a workout Dancehall is. These clients actually hate to workout so this was a way for them to get their cardio in. They would leave the class sweaty but invigorated. So I thought how can I make it challenging and really something new and distinctive. That’s where the idea of incorporating resistance bands and weights came in. I love doing High Intensity Interval Training so I thought it would be an awesome workout to mesh it all together.