Dancing is a huge part of African culture and it is usually used for entertainment and just to have fun. There were dances for all manner of things in African culture traditionally and now dance has evolved and become global.
In the last couple of years I have seen the dance scene grow in so many ways in East Africa, fueled a lot by the TV shows like SAKATA KENYA DANCE ACADEMY, and the many popular music videos and now there are dance schools all over the place as well. Dance has become an avenue for fitness, competition or just for the fun of it. Not only that, dances from all over the world are becoming popular and Africa has not been left behind. Dances like Mapuoka, Chakacha, Azonto, Rhumba, Guara Guara dances are being incorporated into international music videos.
Apart from the dance troupes that have existed for a long time like Safari Cats, Sarakasi Dancers, there are so many people getting into dance for various reasons.
Check out these Hand-Drawn Ballet & Ballerina Art For Black Girls By Thato Mwosa
I took the opportunity to talk to two incredible dancers based in Nairobi Kenya. They are both in the Dance industry and had even been in the same dance group at some point.
Meet Tatyana Wairimu and Mercy Liyosi
These ladies are taking the Kenyan dance scene by storm and agreed to share their incredible stories with me and their journeys in the Kenya dance world.
About Tatyana Wairimu
Tatyana lives in Nairobi. She is a professional dancer. She works with KATIKA DANCE COMPANY which she helped form and has been dancing professionally for over six years now something she is very proud and passionate about. She has two other partners Eric and Meshack.
She started dancing professionally immediately after high school so she is yet to pursue a tertiary education.
Her love of dance started as a child and she has fond memories of her sister Darlene and some of her friends teaching her dance routines to perform at school events.
In 2012, she joined the Nairobi Chapel [a church based in Nairobi] and in the process joined the dance crew DICE [Dedicated In Christ Expression] Crew Kenya where her dance took a more serious angle and she learned more about professional dance.
As a dancer, Tatyana gets many opportunities to dance for weddings and corporate events, also for artists on their videos and even teach classes. She lives to make her sessions as interactive as possible. Some of the opportunities that are close to her heart is teaching kids how to dance.
She has a regular dance class every Saturday dabbed the KATIKA KIDS DANCE CLASS every at a local mall in Nairobi called VALLEY ARCADE in their MDA studios
The class involves leading the kids in various dance routines and fitness activities that entertain them. During the holidays, they offer dance camps that are scheduled daily and cumulates into a dance performance for parents to see what their children have been learning.
On Pain & Art: Frida Kahlo’s Words And Work As Guidance
The kids [boys and girls] are mostly around the age of 4 to 18, they also cater to classes for young adults and are soon to start dance classes for older people as well.
They offer dance sessions in schools and so far they have had sessions at Nairobi International School [NIS]. Brookhouse School, Braeburn School, and many others. This is the main way she gets access kids to come for the extra classes at the studio. Social media has been a great tool as well and you can see Tatyana’s new dance routines if you follow her on Instagram.
Kids love to learn routines they can present during school presentations and also at birthday parties. And for them, it’s usually a lot of fun and also helps them with maintaining fitness
Tatyana aspires a lot for her dance career and hopes to stay in the industry as long as she can both on full time and part time depending on how things work out
Some things she currently aspires to are
- To teach dance to more kids in different schools.
- To feature in music videos for some of the biggest artists.
- To travel and do dance workshops in different countries.
- To expand the company into one of the biggest in the region, [currently only based in Kenya]
- To open a dance academy/school in Kenya.
About Mercy Liyosi
Mercy is from Nairobi Kenya and is a born again believer and has been dancing almost all her life. She is part of the Christian Dance Crew DICE [Dedicated In Christ Expression]
Apart from that Mercy dances professionally outside of DICE and also teaches dance to people.
To Mercy, she believes that being a dancer entails passion, commitment, and discipline.
With a lot of demand for dancers in Kenya, one has to keep up with the industry. There is a physical fitness routine one has to do and not to mention the mental fitness that comes with researching and creating new routines
Mercy’s main clients are based in Kenya and she works a lot on marketing herself to get new clients especially via social media.
Dance In Kenya In a Nutshell
Some of the dance opportunities the ladies mentioned to me that are in Kenya are
- Professional dance instructor.
- Fitness trainer
- Creative Director [Especially for music videos]
- Dancing for events such as weddings, corporate events etc.
- Artist collaborations [dance videos or other platforms]
- School dance sessions
- And many more.
Some of the challenges they face as dancers are
- You have to put a lot of effort and spend a lot to market yourself to get known and get gigs. It’s about keeping up with fitness as well as being consistent in performances and doing a lot of networking.
- There is a lack of unity in the Kenyan dance industry, most people are out to build their own names.
- Dancers are not appreciated or respected because of how the industry is viewed more as a hobby.
- Dancers are generally underpaid especially at beginner level because it is not seen as a serious career. Eventually, it pays off as you progress.
There are also misconceptions about the dance industry out there from those in the industry as well as the general public. You hear things like:
- Dancing won’t take you anywhere
- Dancing is mostly for women
- You have to be skinny to dance
- Dancing is not a sport
- Dancers are proud
- Dancing is hard
- And many more
Read about these 8 Artists From Somalia Channeling New Narratives
It is clear that there is a way to go with dance in Kenya in terms of making it more professional and creating structures. But it is also a worthwhile venture to pursue both as a hobby and as a profession. It has definitely come a long way from the informal way it was till now.
To check out Tatyana’s work follow her on her social media pages
And for the dance company
Facebook Katika Dance Company
Youtube: Katika Dance Company
To check out Mercy’s Work follow her on:
Facebook as Mercy Liyosi
Instagram : mac_liyo
To check out DICE CREW follow them on
Youtube: Dice Crew Kenya
This interview/feature is by Lorna Abwonji.
Lorna Abwonji is Head Designer/Creative Director at Mia Mara Creations.
She is the Project manager at Dress Up Kenya. RAFDA 2008 Finalist & FA254 Finalist 2014.
Lorna is a 2016 YALI Mandela Washington Fellow.