Koolaz dances on during the pandemic and beyond
Odane 'Koolaz' Stewart is intent on taking the dancehall culture to international heights, and the lockdown, protocols and restrictions of COVID-19 are only fuelling his drive.
"When the pandemic just hit last year, with the studios closed, nobody able to go on tour and everything going online, we were wondering what would be the next step," the BG Dancerz Team member explained. He decided to work with a dancing agency opened by dancer/choreographer Blacka Di Danca. There, they devised a plan for a group of dancers to get an Airbnb together, quarantine as a unit, and create a schedule for online sessions.
"Each day, everyone taught online on YouTube Live. We would promote the class and persons would pay and we would make the video private so that only those who paid would be able to have access to the link to watch the 'live'," he said. This was the case throughout the pandemic.
He shared that while studios are slowly reopening their doors, and shows are gradually picking up, there are still hurdles to cross in the new normal when it comes to face-to-face interaction.
"Some studios are saying we can only have 15 to 20 students, so there are now less students in one place. We still can do shows, but we have to take COVID tests and follow all the protocols," he said. Koolaz is also working full-time on his YouTube channel, making vlogs as the main focus to build his brand. He is also collaborating with his wife and fellow dancer Cookie the Monster. With time on their hands, the two have been creating more incredible dance videos together.
"I've found somebody who can dance just like how I dance. Outside of that, she pushes and supports me and I support her and push her to be better. Both of us inspire each other," said Stewart. He even jumped on stage to entertain the crowd alongside his partner, much to the delight of the audience during recording artiste Spice's recent performance in Houston, Texas.
The dynamic duo are also making bold statements off the dance floor with the start of their very own clothing line. Stewart is grateful for the opportunity to grow overseas and he is also looking forward to more tours around the world. But Stewart, currently in New York, confesses that he misses home; the food, the people, energy, the vibe and the lifestyle.
"When I was at home, I used to dance every day. There's no party like a dancehall party. From the soup man to the jerk man, there is nothing like that anywhere in the world," he said.
Koolaz is encouraging other dancers, especially those in Jamaica struggling through these virtually driven times, to get creative and get the right resources.
"Find your image, one that others will be attracted to and support. Also, we know that not everybody has Wi-Fi or a computer. So, if you have a friend who has those, then reach out to them and try and make it work. Don't give up, just try to make it work," he said.