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Smooth moves of Base Control


Smooth moves of Base Control

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by Antoinette Connell Under a street light in Bush Hall, St Michael – a district that does not enjoy the best of reputations – at least once a week Scrappy, Shark, Benson, Short Man and four others gather for a marathon session.It is a veritable hotbed of activity. There are stones involved, loud music, a bit of shouting, but all culminating in euphoric cries with each successful action.“Cheeeeeze, then”, “You  see that move”, “Sweeet” –  cries that are followed  up by congratulatory  fist-knocking and other celebratory expressions.It is one of the practice sessions for Base Control, a group of teenagers plucked from various households in the densely populated urban Bush Hall. They are perfecting moves in street dance, a genre that has been spawned outside the formal dance settings. And the craze has been sweeping communities for a while, though it is now getting more attention.Eighteen-year-old Darren Benson Hoyte is the manager,  a role he naturally stepped into when the teenagers decided to become more organised after three years of an ad hoc arrangement in which members drifted in and out  of the group. “At first I just followed the group around . . . seeing what they were doing, and then Kemar said he wanted to start a group,” recalled Darren, who initially was a disc jockey. That decision came after the group reached the semis of the national Independance competition. The members were further encouraged when they placed third in the Dance Out There competition.Kemar “Scrappy” Jordan, 18, is the group’s leader and choreographer. Almost exclusively the moves are  his creation with some help from nature.“I look at things differently. I come up with the choreography by sitting and looking at things . . . something like rocks. And I come up with the idea that these two will move forward or back, and these two to the side,” he says while demonstrating with the use of four stones carefully laid out in the  road. He applies it to the music later.Tonight’s session is a hastily put together one to accommodate the WEEKEND NATION team. Other nights during the week the young men use Combermere School as a base; but other times they may be found under this particular street lamp, with an electrical wire being run from the home of member Ackel Cheltenham, 16, to power  their music.Here they execute a series of dynamic dance routines on the unforgiving asphalt road – under poor lighting.But it is a sacrifice the eight are more than willing to make for the love of the art form. The other members are Tyrel Headley, 15, Dario “Short Man” Croney, Dominique Phillips, 15, Kerwin Miller, 16, and Jamal “Shark” Beckles, 17. Some work; some are still in school.Their routine typically consists of a bit of acting in the beginning segueing into a series of increasingly complex dance moves. On this night the moves are in sync, but a bit unsteady; and understandably  so when you consider  the terrain they are practising on. They have put their own interpretation to the rhythm of wily Jamaican dance hall artiste Vybz Kartel, exploding into the local pulsating calypso that is the speciality of the affable Jamal who causes his body to tremble in the most amazing way. “We get encouragement; but some people see us and ask why we dance – there is nothing in it. But I love to dance,”  says Kemar.“I get fun from it,”  chips in Dario and Darren. It is a reference to the camaraderie that  has developed and helps keep them focused  on the positive.Theirs is not the typical stuff that street dance movies are constructed around, in which troubled youths seek fulfilment through this particular expression. These teenagers have grown up together and have remained blemish-free in a  neighbourhood where role models may be hard  to find.“We came up as a family and kept as a family, from the time we were small. We’ve come together because of a love for dancing,” Darren said.Because of this love, short notice for an event means nothing to them. Sometimes with just two days’ notice the dance fanatics will come up with a routine and spend hours upon hours practising.They will not dance more than twice at any event for fear of boring the audience, and Darren and Kemar are looking for a new challenge for the group. Darren has found his in including more  local calypso.“That will give us a local trademark. We will have a calypso and dub fusion,” said Darren.The next step is to come up with a distinctive outfit that immediately identifies the group. Darren has not fine-tuned the details on that one, but is toying with the idea of red and white colours. [email protected]