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Bermudian in Kenya raises funds for dance tour

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In sync: Joanne Ball-Burgess with some of her Kenyan dancers in Kenya Wan Move dance troupe, who plan to attend the Wan Move Diaspora Dance Conference in Jamaica

A Bermudian dance teacher living in Kenya has held a dance festival to help to fund her dance group’s trip to a prestigious conference in the Caribbean.

Joanne Ball-Burgess held the Global King & Queen of Dance event at the Sarakasi Dome in the Kenyan capital Nairobi last week.

“The money raised by the event will fund the Kenya Wan Move dance troupe and their trip to the Wan Move Diaspora Dance Conference in Jamaica.

Ms Ball-Burgess said: “It was so successful, we haven’t finished counting the funds just yet.”

She explained she co-ordinated dance classes throughout the afternoon, teaching salsa, dancehall, and twerk dance styles to groups of up to 150 people.

She said the workshops were the most popular and that the level of enthusiasm surprised her and the instructors.

Ms Ball-Burgess said: “Usually the participants are a bit shy, but the workshops hit the ground running and that was amazing to see.”

The event led to a five-round dance battle, where amateur and professional dancers fought for a chance to represent Kenya at the Jamaican dance conference’s World Dancestar’s Competition.

Ms Ball-Burgess said: “We had people come in off the street and say ‘I just heard about this event and I want to be in the battle, but I don’t have cash; can I still join?’”

The dancers were judged by a panel of five on their skills, creativity and ability to work under pressure.

Ms Ball-Burgess said the winner, 26-year-old Raymond Ochieng, a member of Kenya Wan Move, is passionate about dance.

She added: “His parents died in a car accident when he was a child, and at one point he told me ‘my mom and my dad have died; dance is all I have’.

“There have been times where I’ve seen him actually cry, not because he was sad but because he was so emotional about a choreography or concept he was working on.”

Ms Ball-Burgess said her group has another fundraiser planned for the end of September, this time combining dance with fitness.

She added that other dancers have started raising their own funds.

One woman has recruited a sponsor and Mr Ochieng had been given $450 in donations.

Mrs Ball-Burgess, who moved to Kenya in 2011, started the dance troupe in January after becoming Kenya’s representative for the Wan Move Diaspora global dance organisation.

The Wan Move Diaspora Dance Conference was designed to give dancers from the African diaspora the chance to get lectures and dance classes from world-class artistic directors.

The trip is expected to cost around $3,000 per dancer, but the average Kenyan dancer earns less than US$600 a month.

One dancer, 25-year-old George “Jijo” Kaminju, said: “I have two kids and I started my dancing career in high school, so dance to me is really everything.

“I would be very happy if I could go to Jamaica because this would totally open up the doors not just for me, but for other generations of dancers.”

Mrs Ball-Burgess added: “Unfortunately, dance is very underappreciated in Kenya: people think that it’s very impractical, so my hope is to show people that we’re worth investing in. If I had all my wishes I would want the team to perform, compete, and network professionally in Jamaica, then come to Bermuda for a weekend for a show and several workshops as well.

“If we could raise enough funds to do both that would be like my Christmas wish.”

Jump for joy: Kenyan dancer George “Jijo” Kaminju is a protege of Bermudian Joanne Ball-Burgess (Photograph submitted)