Mrs Ball-Burgess says the acts on the Kenyan TV show have similarities to Bermuda’s Gombey dancers. *Photo supplied
Mrs Ball-Burgess says the acts on the Kenyan TV show have similarities to Bermuda’s Gombey dancers. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, OCT. 26: A Bermudian author has swapped her pen for a microphone to become a judge on a top Kenyan talent show.

Joanne Ball-Burgess and her family left Bermuda just over a year ago to start a new life in Nairobi.

And for the past 12 months her husband, Quincy Burgess, has been working tirelessly with the local community to promote sustainable farming and help them make the best use of their natural resources.

Now Mrs Ball-Burgess has got in on the act and become something of a celebrity around town due to her appearance on the Kenyan TV version of America’s Best Dance Crew. She told the Bermuda Sun: “I am enjoying it and learning to understand the Kenyan culture in new ways.

“Being a dance judge is a lot of fun as well as a lot of hard work.

“One of the hard parts of the job is that almost everyone has a tough story of how they made it to the Sakata dance stage.

“There are two groups in the competition that I know of who were all orphans from a young age.

“Some others are attending college and fitting their dance practice in between, while others are seen as the pride of their entire village for being on television.

“Many of the crews have never taken a dance class in their lives but they see dance, they feel it and want to do it. I began taking traditional dance classes seven months ago. I’ve found some similarities between several of the traditional dances and our own Gombey dancers.

“One element of Kenyan culture that is evident in the competition is that Kenyans are very polite as a people. If you ask a question they will tell you the version of what you ‘want’ to hear.

“I was hired as the judge who could ‘tell it like it is’. That has led to lots of attacks on Facebook as well as lots of ‘what I want to hear’ on the streets.”

Mrs Ball-Burgess accepted the position to be a judge on the show called Sakata, which is dance in Swahili, at the end of August.

The programme is broadcast every week on Citizen Television, which is the largest TV station in Kenya, and is aired throughout east and west Africa.


The show also has more than 32,000 likes on Facebook, which is no mean feat given that most people do not have access to the Internet.

Mrs Ball-Burgess added: “Last week I went into town. I hadn’t been in that area for a while because of work. I wasn’t prepared for the looks and pointing and “oh my goodness it’s Judge Joanne”.

“To tell you the truth it was tiring. I’m used to being invisible but familiar in my tiny Bermuda. Life is different here.”

The show’s producer David Mbatia told the Bermuda Sun: “Sakata is the ultimate dance show here in Kenya.

“It’s a tough competition where the dance crews compete for 1 million shillings ($100,000) and a trophy for best dance crew in Kenya.

“We are in the third edition now and we started with 52 crews drawn from all Kenyan provinces.

“The number has grown to 176 crews when we call out for auditions.

“Our main purpose for doing the show is first to create a platform where the youth can showcase their talent in dance.

“As a result they are more likely to stay away from social evils like drugs and alcohol abuse.”