That Ronnie Egessa’s girlfriend broke up with him because of his career as a dancer shows how people have a negative perception of this field. However, Ronnie, now a reputable dance instructor has proven those who belittle this profession wrong
Cynthia Mukanzi @cynthia_mukanzi
Ronald Egessa saw a future in dance when the sceptic world around him scoffed at it. Well known in the dance industry as Ronnie CK, his steadfast passion in the rhythm of dance is flaming his career as he builds a timeless brand that is sought after beyond 254.
Born and raised in Busia, the dance instructor, recalls how grim life was back then. “I lost my mum when I was eight years old. My maternal grandma, who sadly passed on years later, stepped in. She made sure I went to school,” says the 32-year-old.
Ronnie didn’t have a relationship with his dad at the time his mother passed on. But after high school in 2005, he came to Nairobi to finally meet him. “I was not bitter or angry at him. This was our chance of having a proper relationship and I wanted it to work out,” he says.
They started building it from the ground-up and it went well. He was just fresh from high school with hopes of going to college, but his father couldn’t afford it and, so Ronnie turned to dance in 2006.
While dancing, he didn’t give up on going to college. So he kept his ear on the ground and eyes everywhere for any opportunity that could come his way. “I eventually got a scholarship to study dance, which was split between California Institute of Arts and Stamford, US, for four years until 2012,” he says.
After graduation, he jetted back. “I wanted to establish myself as a dance teacher. I didn’t want to be a contract dancer since it doesn’t come with job security. A contract dancer may get gigs for a certain period of time and then it ends. I didn’t want that gamble so, I went for a long-term solution,” he says.
Although he dances for fun every now and then, the dance instructor at Dance Centre Kenya, Academy of Dance and Arts and several other places, stays away from performances, which tend to be irregular.
People know him for Afro Latin dance, but he also does ballet, jazz, tap and ballroom dance.
The performance life of a dancer is limited and so, it is imperative to come up with a good plan that could last you longer if not a lifetime. Unlike some people who think about teaching in their old age, the dance choreographer wanted to cement the roots of his foundation earlier.
It has been 15 years now and he doesn’t regret it even when some people belittle his passion. He admits a lot has improved in the arts industry, but there are still hindrances to be scaled. This takes him to a heartbreak he had to endure a while back when his girlfriend broke with him because of his profession.
“She said I was just a dancer and wouldn’t get the approval of her parents who would think I’d be incapable of taking care of her if we got married. So, she broke up with me. This tells you the kind of perception served at dance. It’s a problem that invalidates the potential of creatives in arts,” he says.
Fall back plan
The fear of not making much as an artist is warranted, but Ronnie understood that things eventually get better with hard work. His diligence and patience bolted him from those days when he used to host free dance classes for a meal as his dues or got paid Sh50 to Sh200, to a respected dance instructor who now charges Sh1,500 per hour for a group class per person and Sh5,000 for private lessons for the same duration. He holds five private dance classes every week and group classes from Monday to Sunday.
“Dance pays my bills and takes me places that the poor little boy I was from Busia never thought would be possible,” he says.
This hurtful perception of dancers as only entertainers who don’t deserve respect also stems from the fact that some of them do not portray their brand with the needed seriousness, as Ronnie has observed.
“People will not value you if you sell yourself short. Every creative must also develop a culture of investing and an entrepreneurial spirit. This could save you a great deal in case of long seasons of joblessness.
Anything could happen and when for instance, you fall ill or get an injury, you must be able to take care of yourself with a good health insurance plan,” he says. He is speaking from experience. Ronnie once broke his leg and shoulder twice, which meant he couldn’t work for a while, but it didn’t keep him down.