Danc­ing across Europe

Bigga Elite re­lo­cates to Swe­den, makes waves on Euro­pean dance cir­cuit

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­erjm.com

THE MAIN stage at the Tivoli Grona Lund amuse­ment park, lo­cated in the heart of Swe­den, holds par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance for Ja­maican dance­hall dancer Al­varado Gowe, who goes by the stage name Bigga Elite.

It’s not only be­cause he show­cased his craft be­fore a bumper crowd of 50,000 peo­ple at the park’s most pop­u­lar sum­mer con­cert, but also be­cause reg­gae leg­end Bob Mar­ley per­formed on the same stage 36 years ago.

Gowe, who mi­grated to Swe­den two years ago, is the 2015 cham­pion of the Swedish Dun Dem Knock­out Dance­hall World Cup Championships. He has ap­peared in a num­ber of mu­sic videos for in­ter­na­tional artistes and has been fea­tured in King­size Mag­a­zine – Scan­di­navia’s largest hip-hop mag­a­zine.

That he was able to achieve all of this in such a short space of time still re­mains sur­real for Gowe as he re­calls, with some dis­ap­point­ment, the up­hill bat­tle he faced try­ing to es­tab­lish him­self as a pro­fes­sional dancer while in Ja­maica.

“As an in­ner-city youth, my early life as a dancer was re­ally a strug­gle, but I wanted to go out into the world and show peo­ple that great­ness can be achieved, it doesn’t mat­ter where you from. I re­mem­ber go­ing to par­ties and hop­ing to get es­tab­lished as a dancer, and it cost me a lot of money just to go out and pro­mote my­self. I was not mak­ing much progress, and at one point, I had to stop and find a nor­mal job, where I worked at Guardian Life In­surance Com­pany and then, after, at Alex Im­ports, and the list goes on,” he told The Gleaner.

Born and raised in Water­house with his fa­ther and grand­mother, Gowe al­ways knew he was cre­atively en­dowed. His ac­tive in­volve­ment in the school band and var­i­ous cul­tural com­pe­ti­tions while he was a stu­dent at the Nor­man Man­ley High School formed the ba­sis for his early de­vel­op­ment as an entertainer.

TURN­ING POINT

Gowe con­fessed that the crime, vi­o­lence, and poverty he wit­nessed in his com­mu­nity also drove him to work hard at im­prov­ing his tal­ent as a dancer, even though he was strug­gling to make a liv­ing pur­su­ing his pas­sion. The turn­ing point for Gowe, how­ever, came when he met a Swedish tourist who was visit­ing Ja­maica to ex­plore her love for dance­hall and Ja­maican cul­ture.

That re­la­tion­ship led to the birth of Gowe’s son, Isac, who was born in Swe­den last year, an event that pro­vided the mo­ti­va­tion for the dancer’s mi­gra­tion to the Scan­di­na­vian coun­try. Once in Swe­den, Gowe im­me­di­ately re­alised the op­por­tu­ni­ties to make a liv­ing from his tal­ent and has been of­fer­ing Ja­maican dance classes and work­shops all across Swe­den and Europe since his ar­rival.

“I have trav­elled to var­i­ous coun­tries teach­ing dance­hall – Swe­den, Nor­way, Poland, Por­tu­gal, Fin­land, Aus­tria, Spain, cur­rently go­ing to Italy and Rus­sia and also hav­ing reg­u­lar weekly classes in Swe­den at nu­mer­ous dance schools,” he said.

Gowe ex­plained that his dance classes and work­shops can range from any­where be­tween 40 to 100 stu­dents at any given time and they have given him the op­por­tu­nity to tour the whole world and spread Ja­maican dance­hall and its vi­brant cul­ture, which Euro­peans can­not seem to get enough of.

“In a class, what hap­pens is, I bring the Ja­maican vibes. Whether it’s a chore­og­ra­phy or just a sim­ple dance move, I keep it au­then­tic at all times,” he fur­ther ex­plained.

If you watch one of the many YouTube videos of Gowe de­liv­er­ing his dance classes, you will quickly realise that he is hav­ing the time of his life do­ing what he truly loves and was des­tined to do. The dancer openly con­fessed to The Gleaner that he has

never been more happy than at this point in his life.

Gowe’s move to Swe­den has opened a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties that would have pre­vi­ously been un­avail­able, not only to him, but also to his son.

“A lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties are in Swe­den for Ja­maicans. One of the most im­por­tant and valu­able ones is that you can be­come any­body you want to be. In Swe­den, school is free. You ac­tu­ally get paid to go to school in Swe­den, and there are a lot more ben­e­fits and op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

While he is still dis­heart­ened that he had to go half­way around the world to ful­fil his dream, Gowe was adamant that it is his Ja­maican her­itage that con­tin­ues to drive him.

“I never for­get where I am com­ing from. That is one of the things that keeps me go­ing each and ev­ery day. We Ja­maican peo­ple have a bold per­son­al­ity and are full of pride, and I value that be­cause that’s what makes me a Ja­maican, and it will never leave me,” he said.

CONTRIBUTED PHO­TOS

Ja­maican dancer Al­varado Gowe (cen­tre fore­ground), who goes by the stage name Bigga Elite with a group of his dance stu­dents in Swe­den.

Gowe with more stu­dents.

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