2020 / 2021
Anna Martine Whitehead’s S P R E A D
Daring Dances welcomes 2020-21 Artist-in-Residence: T. Ayo Alston
T. Ayo Alston teaches and practices a signature theatrical style of West African drum and dance culture that captures the strength and power of women and community. Ayo is the founder, executive director, composer, and choreographer of Ayodele Drum and Dance, a performance training organization created for women to affirm their self-confidence and strength. Through Ayodele, she has performed, educated, fostered interpersonal healing, and created artistic work from a foundation of traditional African cultures fused with contemporary dance styles.
Throughout her career Ayo has taught, choreographed, and performed at schools and universities locally and nationally, as well as in African and Brazilian countries, as an independent artist and as a member of other companies and organizations, such as Dance Africa, Drum Cafe West, Le Bagatae Company of Guinea, Les Ballets Africans, and Muntu Dance Theatre.
In the last two years Ayo has been focused on fine-tuning and sharing her ability to compose music on African instruments, such as the kalimba. This resulted in her accepting a role as a lead actress in and musical composer for Mies Julie at Victory Gardens Theater and as a composer and musician for The Lion King Jr. at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
Ayo serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and on the Dance faculty at Chicago High School of the Arts. She also has developed drum and dance programs that are thriving in prestigious schools, such as Jones College Prep and Walter Payton College Prep, where Ayodele has trained dancers to teach and gain professional artistic skills and experience.
As Ayo passes on her artistic experience and excellence to others, she honors, respects, and expresses tremendous gratitude for her own teachers, including Youssouf Koumbassa, Mouminatou Camara, Baba Chuck Davis, Jawolle Willa Zollar, Rosangela Sylvestre, her mother Sarah, her sisters, women around the world, and LIFE!
In residence in Ann Arbor, Alston will build upon their past work, Femme DeLa Force: Herstory to Tell (2014) and HerStory II Tell: Inside her Eyes (2020), using West African dance styles to tell the story of women warriors who have successfully and/or powerfully challenged systems, governments and male dominated conquerors to maintain their land, integrity or their people.
Find out more about Ayo here