T. 'Ayo' Alston, a quintessential Brooklynite, was raised in a family of highly skilled artists and musicians. At the age of five; she embarked upon an impassioned arts odyssey which has evolved into the dynamic theatrical style of dance, combined with acting, drumming, singing, the trendsetting Chicago Shrine dancers, and Songba-Drum dance that has become her signature. Ayo recalls that it was when approaching adolescence she found her passion, joy and salvation in West African dance and Orisha culture. Since that time, her journey has been one of meteoric artistic exploration, technical development, and growth. It’s fitting that she has taken the name Ayo, the Yoruba word for Joy; a childhood alias.
Ayo has both performed and studied with such dance luminaries as M’Bemba Bangoura (G’Bassikolo), Moustapha Bangoura (Le Bagatae), Mouminatou Camara (Les Ballet Africains), Diedre Dawkins (DishiBem), Baba Chuck Davis (AADE), the late Baba Olkuose Wiles (El Shabazz Djembe & Dance Orchestra), and Rosangela Silvestre (Silvestre Technique)—to name a few. Under the Artistic Direction of Amaniyea Payne, Ayo grew into the role of Dance Captain for Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago and an emerging choreographer; showcasing her first major drum/dance piece entitled, “Ayo’s Dream" for 2 consecutive annual concert seasons. Performing with Muntu allowed Ayo to express her love for humanity and creativity throughout the city and around the world.
In 2009, Ayo birthed the Ayodele Drum and Dance community; a teaching organization created for women to affirm their self confidence and strength in our communities. Through travel, research and performance, Ayodele personalizes African music and dance in order to effectively infuse our women and children with cultural wealth.
Special reverence must be given to Jawolle Willa Zollar, as Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute 2011 uniquely escorted Ayo into the next step on the road to artistic and personal maturity.
Years of dedication to acquiring knowledge and honing her exquisite artistic teaching style and promoting a technical foundation for the next generation of African dance is shared in the NYC and Chicago grade schools, Universities, and international dance exchange programs. Despite her professional successes, “…watching children blossom as I introduce them to African culture through music and dance," remains one of Ayo’s most rewarding experiences.
Ayo, striving to follow in the footsteps of dance giants like Katherine Dunham, Judith Jamison, Jawolle Willa Zollar and Debbie Allen, will figure prominently in the future health and vitality of choreography, education, and performance for generations of dancers to come.