Performing arts group Dance Xpressionz is showing its versatility in a new YouTube comedy-drama series, The Bartender. Inspired by previous short skits posted on their channel, the production follows bar owner Goody (played by Stacy Xpressionz) and her philandering boyfriend Dogbed (Sashi Xpressionz), and the complexities that arise when a new bar chick, Browning (Special Black Xpressionz), comes to town. The plot is intensified with nosy neighbour Bubbles (Shelly Xpressionz), and her friend Five (Shanice Xpressionz), who suffers from hyperosmia and has her own vendetta against Browning when she spots her flirting with her man, Shoppy (Changoula Imperial).
Already eleven episodes in since its April premiere, The Bartender has attracted thousands of viewers and praise for being “the soap opera of the year” according to comments. An appearance from comedian Quite Perry in the latest episode has also contributed to an overall viewership boost, which Dance Xpressionz principal Orville Hall is grateful for. Interestingly, he describes the production as happenstance.
“We started this brand of comedy called ‘Kuyah Comedy’ in April and originally it was not supposed to be a series, it was supposed to be just skits,” he told BUZZ. “One of the skits we did was Shoppy & Five and the other would have been Goody & Dogbed, so The Bartender came out of that accidentally and the public fell in love with it.”
He also dubbed the project a product of quarantine as the group was slated to take their From Den Til Now show to Germany in April. Though the coronavirus pandemic disrupted that plan, it didn’t stop the creatives from exploring other ventures. They started with online classes then eased their way into film.
“We’ve had the YouTube page for years and realised that our numbers were not far off from having our page monetised so we said let’s see if we can grow our following and viewership and we started getting into it in a serious way,” he said. “Stacy and Shelly are actually dance majors and drama minors from the Excelsior Community College so they have experience. I’m also a graduate of that school and used my background as a drama teacher to train my other dancers in characterisation and why it’s important to use our face and bodies to tell a story without verbalising anything.”
Hall serves as director and editor of the series, which he shoots on his Samsung Galaxy S9. The script is improvised with contribution from all members, and all episodes are shot at The Dancehall Hostel, located in the musically rich community of Jackson Town, Kingston, where Hall was raised.
Alongside business partner Syl Gordon (music producer and hostel owner), Hall is determined to strengthen the community’s economy with negotiations underway to have it renamed to Dancehall District.
“We did a presentation for the Tourism Product Development Company a few days ago where we walked through the community and asked for help in developing it through beautification projects, like fixing the road and sidewalks…and they were totally impressed with what we’re doing and have agreed to help,” he said.
The Bartender will wrap after its 12th episode to make way for another series, Ghetto Fabulous. That production will center around varied scenarios and characters of the inner city, and will again see Jackson Town as the backdrop.
Post-COVID-19, Hall is hoping to create a balance between drama and dance.
“We asked for viewers and subscribers and they are truly invested in it so we have to be invested as well. The Xpressionz team is also busy with doing promotional videos for artistes, so we’re moving forward with balancing the dance and drama.”
There’s also music, as Stacy and Sashi are both recording artistes. Hall is also promoting a new rhythm, Dancehall District, produced by Gordon.