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Soca dancers celebrate island culture at Caribbean Festival

A Caribbean dancer interacts with the audience during a performance. Credit: Courtesy of Karl Francis

Amid the brightly colored feathers, beads and rhinestones, the heavy drum beats of soca music will be heard throughout the Scioto Mile this weekend.

On Saturday, the second annual Columbus Caribbean Festival will feature a team of soca dancers sharing a message of positivity and self-acceptance, while celebrating Caribbean culture.

Soca describes a style of music and dance originating from the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. Soca is influenced by many styles of music — including reggae, calypso and afrobeats — giving it a diverse style. Similarly, the soca dancers who will be performing this weekend also are diverse.

“With this group, it’s so many different shapes, sizes, shades, ages,” said Iman Clark, a third-year in dance and member of the soca dance team. “What we’re doing is for empowering women … we’re basically saying like ‘This is your body, so don’t be afraid to whine your hips.’”

Although it is still fairly new, festival dance director Melinda Miranda is determined to impress the audiences.

“This year is totally different,” Miranda said. “I felt like I had something to prove.”

The former Ohio State dance student turned instructor has upgraded the apparel for this year’s show with the help of a new designer, Kristian England.

“The costumes [for this year] are amazing,” Miranda said in reference to the traditional Caribbean Carnival costumes that were specially designed for their performance.

While Miranda choreographed the entire show herself last year, this year she decided to let individual dancers shine, giving them the opportunity to choreograph and perform solos while the rest of the dancers follow in the background.

Miranda said her favorite part of teaching and sharing the culture of soca is the transformation she gets to witness within her students.

“Soca just changes your life in general,” Miranda said. “Having confidence changes your life and that’s what it gives you.”

The Columbus Caribbean Festival will take place at 4 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Admission for the festival is free.

 

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