Bajan dancers/ entertainers, Nandi Yard and Amory Holder aka Spinny visited the Cayman Islands for the first time this past weekend. When luxury boutique hotel, Palm Heights, reached out to Nandi, offering to host her-plus-one for Cayman’s 39 year-old Batabano carnival festivities, Nandi said, “I had to make it happen and Spinny was the perfect companion.”
Nandi, who boasts an impressive 101K followers on Instagram, and whose resume as a professional soca dancer includes working as a dancer for Machel Montano over the past few years, including at the recent Mele festivities in Cancun Mexico, and being part of Barbados’ highly-acclaimed Riddim Tribe dancers, has participated in Jamaica carnival, Trinidad carnival, Miami carnival, Boston carnival and Caribana in Toronto.
Nandi said that Cayman’s national carnival “did not disappoint,” noting the enjoyment experienced by both masqueraders and spectators, as well as the variety of nations represented in the Cayman Islands, as they displayed their culture.
Nandi said that she felt a sense of national pride to hear soca music from Barbados on the road.
“Soca always brings us together,” she said.
‘Wuk-up artist,’ entertainer and fitness instructor, Spinny, who has participated in festivals such as Labour Day in New York, Trinidad Carnival, Notting Hill Carnival and Miami Carnival, referred to Batabano as “epic.”
“It was vibes,” he said of Batabano. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect but I had a fantastic time and I can see this Carnival turning in to something massive.”
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When asked how Batabano compares to Kadooment in Barbados, both artists stressed that it would be difficult to compare the larger, more commercialized festival in Barbados with the smaller scale event in Cayman, but enjoyed Batabano’s unique vibe, the “personal connection” with the revelers and said that they had a blast on the road.
“I love me my Kadooment,” said Spinny, of Barbados’ Grand Kadooment Day which falls on August 1 this year. “This year is my first year as a band section leader with Khepri Kulture and I’m very excited about that.”
While Spinny and Nandi had an amazing time at Batabano and during their stay at Palm Heights, their busy schedules put them back on a Cayman Airways flight within 24-hours of the event.
Spinny returned home to Barbados to get ready for his first ever birthday party, ‘Stained with Spinny,’ a paint and power j’ouvert style fete, and he has begun making plans for an array of Crop Over activities.
Spinny will also be continuing “cultural cardio” or what he refers to as “a pelt waist fitness class” that he has taken to the global stage, winning him fitness trainer of the year for the past two years at Barbados’ Gine On Awards.
“The sessions are called “Spin Pooch with Spinny,” says Spinny, of the classes that he describes as the perfect prep to get ready for carnival.
“Hopefully, sometime I can be back to introduce Cayman to the sessions,” said Spinny. “You can look out for me at Crop Over, New York for their Labour day and London for their Notting Hill Carnival.”
Nandi also headed back to Barbados to get back to her usual bustle of flying on and off-island for a packed agenda of classes and gigs. After settling in to teach locally, she will be heading to the US to lead a series of classes entitled “wukshop,” a Caribbean-based dance class that breaks down how to wuk up, and includes dance routines and soca workout burnout.
“I use the opportunity to showcase things true to Barbadian culture such as tuk band/ landship and inter school sports,” Nandi explains. “I’ve taught these classes in St. Lucia, Trinidad, Cancun, New York, Boston and Florida to name a few. I’m working to share my culture with the wider world.”
Nandi is also scheduled to join Machel on his upcoming tour across several cities in the United States, and hopes to add more destinations and performances with other major artists, such as Rihanna, to her career list.
In addition to working as a professional dancer (specializing in soca and other genres) Nandi is active in a number of areas, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Pharmaceutical Biochemistry.
“As all these pieces make up who I am, plus I break down the ‘wuk up’ into a science, I’m often referred to as ‘The Wuk Up Scientist’ or ‘Minister of Waist Matters’,” Nandi laughs.
And alas, all good things must come to an end, but the duo surely left their mark on Cayman and Palm Heights hotel, and vice versa.
“We want to say a very special thank you to Palm Heights Hotel for facilitating this experience,” said Nandi and Spinny. “They are extremely keen on supporting Caribbean creatives and so, brought a group of dancers/ creatives to Cayman Carnival. They ensured that we felt at home. We didn’t have to worry about anything! They took care of us in a way that we will be forever grateful for.”