What Is the Reggae Dance?

Updated July 20, 2017

Reggae dance is a popular form of entertainment in Caribbean countries, and Jamaica in particular. Based on ska and rocksteady genres of music, reggae music originated in Jamaica in the 1960s and has expanded to include subgenres such as dancehall, reggaeton, and ragga. The dance movements that accompany reggae music are usually hyper-sexual, loose and performed with attitude.


Reggae music and dance traditions are most commonly associated with Jamaican culture and society. According to Piero Scaruffi, the term "reggae" was coined in the 1960s to correspond with the "ragged" look and feel of the dancing that accompanied the off-beat rhythms of the music. The rhythm is a simplistic after-beat with stresses on the second and fourth beats of each bar. Although reggae dance is a general term that involves moving to the beat of any type of reggae music, several specific reggae dance moves accompany genres such as dancehall or reggaeton.


Reggae dance is most often associated with the island of Jamaica and the religious Rastafari movement, but more specifically, the capital city of Kingston is considered to be a haven for casual and professional reggae dancers. Other than Jamaica, most other Caribbean and South American countries have a vibrant reggae dance scene, and notably, the reggaeton genre is particularly popular in Cuba. Afro-reggae dance music is also popular in African countries. Nightclubs and dancehalls in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia often play reggae dance music by mainstream artists such as UB40, Damian Marley and Sean Paul.


Reggae dance is more than just a pastime for Jamaicans: it is a representation of the larger culture and society. The website"Speak Jamaican" describes Jamaica as a "sound-system culture," with music literally in the streets. In addition, contemporary reggae music and dance can be considered a form of escapism that offers "a new outlook towards the country's harsh economic situation."


Features of dancehall reggae include several different types of rapid steps or moves. The types of moves are often sexualized and based on loose movements and attitude. The hyper-sexual grinding movements that accompany genres like dancehall and reggaeton are often seen as ways for people to express their sexuality and create a connection with their own bodies and with other dancers.


The most preliminary reggae dance movement is known as "winding," which involves rotating your hips in a snake-like fashion to the beat of the music. More specific (and complex) movements, according to Annika Allen's article 'Dancehall Moves,' include Pon De River (kicking your feet in controlled movements), Hot Wuk ('backshot' position), and Tek Weh Yuh Self (complex dance-walking).

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About the Author

Malory Beazley has been active in the online social media and blogging community since 2006. Her writing experience ranges from analytical research papers to screenplays to pop culture microblogging. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in film and media from Queen's University (Ontario, Canada).