Recently, a representative of the award-winning FBI Dance Crew called Pulse with good news.
They had earned recognition globally after getting nominated for an international dance award — The Dance Ja Awards, in Jamaica — for Best International Dance Act, making them the first ever African outfit to be nominated.
“It is a very exciting feeling. We are up against groups from Russia, Spain, Sweden and Holland and voting is currently underway,” the informer told Pulse and went ahead to plead with the dancers’ fans to vote for them.
It is hardly two years since another Kenyan dancer Kate Kibugi won the Guinness World record in Limbo dancing, breaking the record in a live broadcast of Italian TV show — Guinness World Record. The 25-year-old star put Kenya in the international map and revolutionised dancing in the country as emerging dance troupes started getting showbiz recognition and making good financial returns.
Now, it is almost unthinkable to watch a music video or a live performance on stage performance without back up dancers.
Dance groups are swiftly transforming themselves into highly regarded professional ventures, especially among urban youth. These groups have clearly defined structures, complete with patent documents and registration, and are run as business enterprises.
Dance is a major component of the local showbiz scene, with several local and international dance competitions.
Locally and regionally, we have popular dance competitions including Malta Street Dance Competition, Sprite Challenge, Sakata Dance Battle and Can U Dance Battle.
These dance groups are now cutting deals worth millions of shillings, with recording stables and promoters rushing to sign them up.
As can be expected of any competitive industry, rivalry between dance groups has since emerged, with groups now labelling themselves as secular and gospel — and staking a claim in their realm. A gospel dance group will not perform for secular artistes, and vice versa.
These rivalries have also trickled down within dance group with most groups now falling out. Groups such as Air Force, Alshabab Dance Crew, Limbo Dancers and Alizeti Dancers are no more.
Some of the notable troupes among these groups are:
Formed in 2003, Dashy Krew is a three-member group, which boasts of being the only dance group in the country to be signed up to a major recording stable — Grandpa Records.
“Our debut into the limelight was in 2005 and since then, we have not looked back. We have been honoured to hold shows in Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa,” says Irene Karanja aka Renee, member of the dance group.
She adds: “We only perform for established artistes in the showbiz scene. Our rate varies from between Sh50,000 to Sh150,000 depending on how long the performance will take, amongst other logistics.”
The dance crew, which regards itself as neither gospel nor secular, also offers dance and fitness lessons to upcoming dancers.
The Tusker Project Fame (TPF) eviction parties and the Big Brother Africa 2011 Eviction party held in South Africa are some of the major gigs the group has performed in.
In 2008, the group was selected to represent Kenya at the Malta Guinness, Street Dance Competition in Nigeria where they emerged the champs.
Recently signed to Grandpa Recording label, the group will be working with every artiste signed in recording stable.
Major videos that the group has featured in include Fimbo Ya Pili by Grandpa Family, Kamua Leo by Kidis Featuring DNA, Wyre and Ameleena, Kataa Hio, Colour Kwa Face and Pole Pole by Nonini.
Synonymous with its well choreographed dance moves, the Sarakasi dancers are arguably the most organised dancers’ group in the capital and also celebrated as the cradle of most dance groups.
The Sakata Dance Battle season III champions Blackblingers, are said to have borrowed most of their dance antics from Sarakasi, where they are hosted. The talented Wapi Wapi dance group is also a product of the Sarakasi dancers.
Since 2002, Sarakasi has nurtured more than150 dancers, with the Sarakasi Dome, located in Ngara, Nairobi, playing host to an average of 40 dancers at a given point of the day.
“We admit children as young as eight years who are interested in dancing and train them on the basic dance moves,” says Edu, founder of Sarakasi Dome and a TPF judge.
They give a decent stipend to all their dancers and through the Sarakasi Dome, most talented dancers have been granted the opportunity to perform in major shows locally and internationally.
They charge a minimum of Sh50,000 for ten dancers, although the fees vary depending on other factors.
“At Sarakasi, we encourage growth among our dancers and that is why you find most of the dancers have opted to form their own dance groups,” added Edu.
Split from the Sarakasi Dancers early last year, these winners of the 2011 Malta Guinness Pan-African championship, has a name that signifies their search for might — Wapi Wapi.
The group of eight, which debuted into the local showbiz scene in 2011 after a splendid performance in Ghana, credit their main inspiration into dancing as the desire to entertain others with their God-given abilities.
They do not have a fixed charge for their performances, but reveal that they are open to negotiations provided it is a good deal.
“Our future plan is to be a notable brand in the showbiz scene and eventually open up an entertainment company,” says Billy Sadia, one of the members.
Their well choreographed dance moves have seen them travel to China, Holland, Belgium, Jamaica, Sweden, Greece and Mozambique.
The well-travelled dance group has worked with the gorgeous Habida in her song Get Down Tonight, Alpha’s in his song No Money No Love and Davis Ntare’s in his song Sheke Sheke.
“The local dance industry is growing fast and as a group, we see our big breakthrough coming soon,” added Sadia.
FBI DANCE CREW
Celebrated as one of the first notable dance groups in the showbiz scene, the Focus Beyond Imagination (FBI) is a household name in the local dance scene.
They say that they charge a minimum of Sh70,000 or even more depending on the intensity of job, the number of dancers, client specifications and among other logistics for a performance.
“Dancing has been part of us since childhood. We sleep, eat and think dance,” says Ramadhan Nyachio alias Rama, one of the group members.
Having performed in major towns and cities across Eastern Africa, the FBI is now planning an international tour mid this year.
“Before the international tour, we are slated to perform in Zambia and Uganda this month,” he adds.
The Sakata Dance Battle Season II champs met in high school and according to them, most dance groups fall out along the way due to financial rows, lack of commitment and lack of professionalism among members.
“It is encouraging to see that dance is now recognised as part and parcel of the entertainment industry,” argues Rama.
The FBI dance group has featured in an array of videos, which includes Make you Dance song by Keko, in Wyre’s Dancehall Party, MOG’s Go let him Go and Pick My Call, BMF’s Birthday, Holy Ghost Fire and Jalango featuring DNG Katumbo Dance among other videos.
ALTERMIN DANCE GROUP
The group’s spotlight was in 2011 when they collaborated with HopeKid, a gospel artiste, on a song Holiday. Their name is a combination of Altar and Ministries, a clear explanation of what they do.
The group is sub-divided into three effective groups Altarmin the brand eight members, Altarqueens four ladies and Altar-mini consist of five children aged between five years to 13 year.
The gospel dance group says that their desire is to exploit their talents to the fullest through dance and spread God’s ministry.
“We charge a minimum of Sh50,000 to cover the costs and get value for the long hours we spend in training seasons daily,” says Socrates Sawqy, the group leader.
He adds that: “Dance has taken us all over the country. We have also crossed borders to Tanzania and Uganda.”
While opposing the emerging divide between dancers, Sawqy urges dance groups to stand in one accord if they are to make the dance industry grow.
The Altermin dance group has also worked with gospel singers Soc featuring Kris Eh Baba in the song Bila Yesu.
The Sakata Dance Battle Season III victors are a youthful eight-member troupe. The group was founded in 2008 but came into the limelight in 2010 at the Insyder Skiza Chaguo La Teeniez Awards where they emerged runners up.
The group has worked with Exodus Ugandan gospel singer in his videos Igwe Oga and I am Walking, Anto Neo Soul in his song video Qwert Love and Eko Dydda in his songs Ghetto, As for Me and My House.
Blackblingers are also the official dancers for the Kitu Kimoja hit singer Avril.
Charging a minimum of Sh60,000 per show, Blackblinger group leader Njoroge Irungu aka Cubbs says it beats logic, that dance groups are now forming rivalry groups.
“Dance is a movement and dance groups should stop with the beefing,” he adds.
ZIONIST DANCE GROUP
They brag as the first gospel dance group to fully produce a dance DVD album. Zionist says they only dance to gospel and conscious music.
Formed in 2006, and charge Sh80,000 for performance according to Danovermass a group member.
The group has been nominated to Grooves Awards and Mwafaka Awards.
They have worked with gospel artistes such as Jimmy Gait in his hit song Furi Furi Dance, DK Kwenye Beat featuring Anto Neo Soul in his song Sari Sari and Kevoh Yout in the song Pull Up Your Hands among other artistes.
By Austine Okande and Mkala Mwagesha