We feature in-depth information on the traditional dances. You will be thrilled! Click the "read more" below to get a more comprehensive look at the dances which also highlight videos.
The Jamaican dance culture is characterized by dance forms from mostly African and European origins. Most Jamaicans are familiar with them, but only few can perform them. There are many dances that have died out entirely from our culture including the goombay, tambu, revival, and the myal. Let us look at some of the more popular dances.
Dinki Mini: This dance is of African origin usually performed at night events or “dead yard” (home of someone who recently passed on). The dancing is done by couples and there is also singing to a lively “mento” type of music. Dinki Mini is very popularly known a performed in the parish of St. Mary.
Kumina: Also known as kalunga or kadunga, exhibits strong African culture. It features flat footed inching of the feet, steady but often subtle forward thrusting of the hips with the ribcage and arms moving against the hip. This is followed by wild spins and sudden breaks signaled by a lead drum. Kumina is practiced mainly in the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Mary and St. Catherine.
Ettu: Also of African origin, ettu is performed mainly in the nights. It involves rapid foot movement in response to beat of a drum. It is mainly performed in the parish of Hanover.
Bruckins Party / Bruckins: A steady dipping, and gliding African dance formerly done to commemorate Emancipation Day (August 1). It takes the form of red and blue sets competing against each other. This dance form is performed mostly in Portland and St. Thomas.
Maypole: Of European origin, this dance was originally celebrated in England at the May 1st May Day celebrations. Twelve to sixteen dancers, sometimes all females or couples, plait pole colored ribbons. This dance is mostly performed in the parishes of Trelawny and Hanover.
Quadrille: A dance of ballroom settings originating in Europe, and danced during slavery. It was the preferred music and dance of the British plantocracy (A ruling class formed of plantation owners, leadership or government by this class.) during the 19th century. The quadrille is quite a lively dance with four couples. The couples are arranged in the shape of a square and each couple faces the center of that square. There is a pair called the head couple, and the other pairs the side couples. The side couples usually repeats whatever the head couple does. The quadrille is popular throughout the island, with small variations in some parishes. As a matter of fact, it is still special cultural events and festivals across the island.
Jonkonnu dance Jamaica Jonkonnu / John Canoe: This dance is the most popular today. It is a combination of African and European origin. The Jonkonnu dancers are commonly referred to as “masqueraders” and mostly perform during Christmas or Independence. The dance group usually consists of several instruments, drum, bass, rattler, and fife. Johnkunno characters include, 'King', 'Queen', 'Devil', 'Pitchy Patchy', and 'Belly Woman'. For years these characters have been feared by onlookers.
Tambu / Tamboo: The Tambu dance was originated in Wakefield Trelawny. It was formerly used to contact ancestral spirits, however as the older folks passed on, so did the practice. Today, the Tambu dance is performed mainly for entertainment and is believed to be one of the most entertaining traditional dances.
Calypso: While calypso is a phenomenon of the Eastern Caribbean, it has steadily gained popularity in Jamaica. Several local groups have gained international fame for association with calypso. Local groups such as Fab Five, Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires, and the Bare Essentials, have placed Jamaica among the top calypso groups from the Caribbean.