Kenya’s dance sensation

A young Kenyan dancer has earned a scholarship to the English National Ballet School in London. Joel Kioko only took up ballet a few years ago but has already impressed teachers with his amazing aerial ability.

Aged just 14, Kioko began dancing at Karen C Primary school in Nairobi. Soon his talent was spotted and he was asked to study full time under instructor Cooper Rust at Dance Centre Kenya (DCK).

“I’ve never seen anyone move that balletically with no training whatsoever,” commented DCK artistic director Rust. Others have compared his athletic style to that of Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta.

“I thought, what is this strange dance?” said Kioko, when filmed for the documentary Joel’s Story. “It is not like Kenyan dancing, so I did not fall in love with ballet straightaway, but when we did the men’s class and I could jump and turn, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

The Kenyan prodigy has already been overseas, studying at the University of South Carolina’s Summer Dance Conservatory for several months in 2016 along with two other DCK students.

Kioko is now passing on his passion for ballet to other young people in the area, leading classes in the district of Kibera – the largest urban slum in all of Africa.