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Zuvaa dance team brings Caribbean flair to African Night

Zuvaa dancers performing at 2017 African Night at Ohio State. Photo courtesy: MT Photography.

As the temperature begins to drop this winter, it becomes harder and harder to imagine warm weather, sunshine or palm trees, but the Zuvaa Afro-Caribbean dancers make this a little bit easier.

The Ohio State students who make up this group acknowledge the impact of African culture on Caribbean and Latin American countries through different styles of music and dance. This Saturday they will take the stage at Ohio State’s annual “African Night” celebration.

The word “zuva” roughly translates to “sunshine” in the language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, but the dancers draw influence from many different places, from modern afrobeats and afro-house music, to the Caribbean sounds of calypso and soca.

African Night aims to unite people of African descent from all over the world, as well as to showcase the beauty of African culture to all. Zuvaa hopes to do this in their performance by demonstrating various genres of dance.

“This year it’s not completely centered around one type of dance. It’s much more diverse,” said Venassa Oppong,second-year in biology and president of Zuvaa.

Oppong’s involvement in the group is rooted in passion, as she has no formal dance training.

She grew up dancing at home for fun, and quickly realized that her self-taught talent could be a good way to help her “get out of her shell.” Now, she choreographs the majority of the dances for Zuvaa, and would like to expand their involvement beyond the African population at Ohio State.

“I want other people to recognize us and be more interested in the group itself,” Oppong said. “I want to be able to perform not only at African night or small African events but at things on a larger scale.”

Zuvaa just recently became a university sanctioned student organization. Before this semester, although they have previously performed in African Night, they were only a subgroup of African Youth League (AYL).  

“It’s really hard to book rooms to rehearse in when you’re not a dance major, so becoming an org was really important for us because we were finally able to do that,” said second-year in health sciences and vice-president of Zuvaa, Harriet Osei.

Osei also credits Zuvaa with encouraging self-expression and self-acceptance.

“For me Zuvaa is just an outlet, it helps me express myself,” Osei said. “I’m learning so much about myself, I didn’t even know I could dance.”  

The Afro-Caribbean dancers in Zuvaa will perform at the African Night Celebration tonight. The celebration will take place in the Archie M. Griffin Ballroom in the Ohio Union. The red carpet starts at 6:00 p.m. and the show will begin at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.


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