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Traditional Jamaican Dances - Complete List!

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 Dancers

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 Group 

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 Dancers

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 dancers

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 dancers

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 dancers

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 dancersJonkonnu 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 DancersTambu / 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 dancers

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.