WILKES-BARRE — Slipping out of socks and shoes so they’d be “more rooted to the ground and to the Earth,” a group of Wilkes University students fastened bells to their ankles, passed out hand-held goat-tails and started to rehearse some lively and loose-limbed dances that represent Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
“I’m excited to learn something new,” said Imani Claudine, 21, a business administration major from Allentown, who plans to dance during Wilkes-Barre’s second annual Multicultural Parade and Festival on Saturday, along with several other members of Wilkes’ African Cultural Association.
“We’ll walk in the parade; we’ll dance on Public Square,” theater arts major Mmachi Dimoriaku clarified Wednesday afternoon as the dancers gathered in a practice studio at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Centre for the Performing Arts.
Dimoriaku, 20, who is from the Bronx, N.Y., learned the dances over the summer with her hometown dance club, added some Afro-beat elements and has been teaching the routines to her fellow Wilkes students. Their music includes “Kola Boy” by the rapper Onyx as well as a song sung in French.
Were the young men in the group as eager to learn as the young women?
“They trapped us,” Elijah Hayes said with a laugh, admitting almost immediately he was kidding.
“They told us there would be dances and we’d learn about flags and cultures and enjoy the food,” said Hayes, 20, a mechanical engineering major from Philadelphia, explaining why he agreed to take part.
Some of the dancers can trace their heritage to specific countries in Africa, among them: Dimoriaku to Nigeria; mechanical engineering major Brandon Bray to Sierra Leone, and pre-dentistry major Mary Baddoo to Ghana.
Claudine is originally from East Africa and speaks Swahili, but said African dance is a new endeavor, one she’ll be happy to share at the festival. She’s also eager to see what other groups have to offer.
The parade is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the corner of South and South Main streets and proceed to Public Square, where performances are set from noon to 9 p.m. The roster includes performers whose dance talents range from salsa to Aztec to Irish step, as well as a variety of musicians and singers.
Within the next few weeks, Dimoriaku said, she hopes to announce a series of African dance lessons that would be held at Wilkes University but open to anyone in the community.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT