A Crown Heights choreographer is keeping dancehall alive, one move at a time.
Blacka Di Danca is a popular name in the dancehall, not just locally but worldwide. After going viral on YouTube, the young choreographer is making an even bigger name for himself doing flash mobs, teaching workshop classes, and performing on Governor’s Island on Sept. 2 as part of the “On Da Reggaae and Soca Tip” festival. His many activities are all part of the hustle, said Blacka.
“Dancehall itself it’s hard to maintain a source of income,” he said. “It’s still thriving, it’s still huge, it’s just trying to figure out a way for them to maintain income from it.”
Dancehall is a popular genre of Jamaican music, with roots in Reggae. The genre known for singing or rapping over beats called “riddims,” is even more known for the dances associated with the music. Dances that Blacka began learning and dancing too.
“It’s almost impossible to not be a dancer living in Brooklyn and being surrounded by this huge melting pot of Caribbean community,” said Blacka. “But I started taking it more serious in 2003.”
By going to clubs in East Flatbush and perfecting his dancing skills, Blacka gradually saw his skills improve and began creating dance videos on YouTube. And after winning the title of Dancehall King in 2008, he started taking choreography more seriously and created more videos.
Blacka’s viral videos also gained him gigs choreographing for artists like Collie Buddz and even Major Lazer, who Blacka choreographed the video to his song, “Lose Yourself.” His growing popularity led to an unexpected invitation to Russia to teach a dance workshop.
“At the time I was touring with Collie Buddz and I wasn’t really focused on workshops and I randomly got an email from Russia,” said Blacka. “I didn’t know why people in Russia reached out to me. I didn’t know I was famous in Russia.”
Unaware of his fame overseas and how viral he was, he went on the life-changing trip to Moscow with mixed reactions, to come back and keep pushing towards his dreams.
Despite his immediate ambiguous feelings about Russia, Blacka returned to the states with no regrets and began doing workshops in the city, even creating his dance group, Danca Family last year.
“I took a chance,” said Blacka. “I just felt really appreciated – just a black kid from Brooklyn and for someone across the world to see me, was enjoying.”
Recently performing at two events in Brooklyn – a Jamaican Independence celebration at Brooklyn Bowl, and the Caribbean heritage event at the Brooklyn Museum, Blacka showcased his dance skills to people. Their reactions keep him dancing despite the lack of funds.
“It’s the smile I get from students that leave my class,” said Blacka. “Just that feeling that you can change somebody’s day or their mood for the day – that will always fill you. If you’re not doing it for anything but love you’re not gonna last long.”
And as for his first love dancehall, he wants to see the musical genre more respected by mainstream media.
“I want to do everything that involves dancehall. I am already booked for a wedding,” said Blacka. “My hope is for dancehall to be equally respected as every other genre in music – because it influences every other genre, they just don’t give us the credit.”
Blacka di Danca will perform at Hot 97 Presents “On Da Reggae and Soca Tip” on Governors Island on Sept. 2 at 8 pm. $65.