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#ELLEActive: Dancehall

Where I learn it's exercise you can totally get jiggy with

By Nidhi Jacob  July 7th, 2015

Jahnavi Sheriff Saisuresh shows us a few of her dancehall moves

After a long history of being allergic to exercise and dismissing most forms (yoga, zumba, pilates, any kind of gym time) for being too boring, I was at a point where I was finally worried for myself. I’m at the heaviest I have ever been and unable to climb a flight of stairs without aggressively panting. Colleagues, friends and family will vouch for this: the only time you’ll see me move without complaining, is when I’m dancing. And by dancing, I mean, regular ‘in da club’ kind of dancing. As I set out to find the perfect dance class for me, I heard about Jahnavi Sheriff Saisuresh’s dancehall class. I saw a couple of her videos and thought, ‘This is cool, I could totally do this.’

I landed up for my first class without any actual idea of what dancehall involves. (I brushed up on the history as soon as I got home: dancehall is a fast-toned off-shoot of Reggae which originated in Jamaica, in the late ’70s. Popular icons include Shabba Ranks, Yellowman, Buju Banton, Shaggy, Beenie Man and Sean Paul.)

Sheriff starts her class with a bunch of un-choreographed steps (like ‘get jiggy with it’, ‘pon di river’, ‘bogle’ and ‘out and back’) before getting into stretches. If you survive her warm-up, congratulations. What follows is choreography (my first routine was set to ‘Hustling’ by Busy Signal), and this is truly where I over-estimated my dancing skills. Dancehall requires you to be fast, and switch between forceful, power moves and loose-limbed ease. Try doing all of that and remembering which step comes next. In the last 15 minutes of the class comes the part I initially balked at, but now enjoy: solos. In front of an entire class.

To a novice, the dance form might seem very similar to hip hop; a lot of modern-day hip hop is based on dancehall. Apart from the vigorous exercise and complete lack of boredom (yay! if only, I could make the time to go more than twice a week), I like the fact that it’s not particularly mainstream (Saisuresh is the only one offering dancehall in Mumbai) and it is not as common as hip hop. Safe to say I’ll be getting jiggy with dancehall for a while to come. 

Contact Jahnavi Sheriff Saisuresh on Facebook here.

– Nidhi Jacob

PS: Here’s a bunch of dancehall tunes to get started: