The History of Jamaican Dance

danseuse image by Jerome Dancette from

Modern Jamaica is perhaps best known for its reggae and dance hall music styles, but the island has a diverse history of music and dance. As many as 30 traditional dances have drawn on influences from Africa, Europe and, in recent years, North America.

African Influences

After the English captured Jamaica from the Spanish in the 17th century, the slave trade in the island nation grew substantially to help support the sugar cane industry. Most of the African-based dances originated as religious or ceremonial dances native to Africa, and were performed by slaves brought from there. Over time, many dances lost their original religious significance, and became primarily social dances.

Creole Dances

Some Jamaican traditional dances were based on influences from England or elsewhere in Europe. Most dances, however, are known as creole - those that have combined both the African and European influences. Creole dances include the Jonkonnu, Bruckin's and Revival dance styles. Some dances, like the Dinki Mini, are unique to particular areas of the island.

Mento Music

Mento music, also known as Jamaican calypso, has been one of the island's most enduring music styles. It was born during the island's early plantation period, and was popular well into the 20th century. A fusion of African and British influences, Mento music has been the accompaniment for many of Jamaica's traditional dances, including the Quadrille. Jamaican music and dance have continued to evolve, with reggae and dancehall music now well known in other parts of the world. In recent years, North American music has had an increasing influence on traditional island styles.

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