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Dancing queen who loves books

Joanne Burgess aka Judge Jo-1 grew up in the islands of Bermuda, and through her dancing talent, she spread her tentacles to becoming one of the renowned celebrity dancers in Kenya. She is also a singer and author. Her sister, Dionne Monsanto, tells us more

Wambui Virginia @kuivirgie

How would you describe your childhood?

It was one filled with tradition, spirituality, and the love of nature on a beautiful island of Bermuda, North America. We were always surrounded by love and people who believed we could be the best. Joanne was responsible, but sometimes mischievous. Talkative around family, but shy around people she didn’t know.

What was Joanne’s nickname as a child?

You’re trying to get me in trouble here! (laughs). I guess I’m ok since I’m the older one. Her nickname was Pumpkin Head, because she had light, brown hair as a child.

What funny incident do you remember of Joanne as a child?

In general, one would think of people from Bermuda as more conservative. That did not fit with her personality at all. So, when it was ok for her to start picking up her own clothes and shopping for herself, she would never come back with solids or muted colours or pastel.

Her wardrobe always had the brightest, boldest patterns and combinations that were way ahead of her time. To this day, she doesn’t know what a basic black dress is!

Joanne is a dancer, trainer and author. Tell us more?

As an artist and a creative, that means she has a brilliant mind. In Bermuda, she was mostly known as a children’s author. She is the author of The Lizard and the Rock and was an education officer at the Bermuda National Gallery (BNG).

She currently teaches at The Cottage School. She has always blended dance and education. That’s why her comments when she was a judge at Sakata, no matter how tough they seemed were always to educate the performer. Joanne is now among the renowned dancers in Kenya.

What values and traits have helped her succeed and get to where she is?

She always seeks to do her best. She likes bringing out the best in too. Because of that, she pushes herself harder and takes honest feedback/criticism well. She loves music and being in motion, so all of this works well as a dancer/choreographer.

What does she love to do when she’s not working?

Joanne is an avid reader! She’s generally reading two or three books at a time, not to mention she’s constantly reading articles online as well. She values education deeply and continues to educate herself, she is currently in a Harvard Law course on copywriting for creatives.

What else is she currently up to?

The newest thing is teaching yoga! We did a 200-hour yoga teacher training in Zanzibar last year and she’s currently teaching several classes around Kenya.

She has figured out how to blend her love for dance with her love for yoga into an integrated dance-yoga class, which people love.

Of course, it has reggae and pop music woven through! Joanne is also in the process of taking 15 Kenyan dancers to Jamaica for the Wan Move Diaspora Dance Conference.

As a Regional Director for Kenya and East Africa, she is currently mentoring these dancers and helping them to prepare for this creative collaboration. The group is currently raising money for this endeavour.

What is one thing that people don’t know about her?

She is sensitive. She does not like hugs. She’s deeply private and values her family and home life. She has a BA in Philosophy and a Master’s in Education where her research focused on blending learning with dance.

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