T. Ayo

T. Ayo Alston

She // Her // Hers
They // Them // Theirs

[ID: T. Ayo, an African American gender-neutral person with red and orange locks, holds the hood of their black jacket over their head while looking into the camera confidently.]

Dancer, Musician, and Educator
Chicago, IL
2022 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Walder Foundation.

T. Ayo Alston is a performing arts professional trained in traditional West African and Afro-Brazilian dance styles. Alston teaches and practices a signature theatrical style of performance with an aesthetic of traditional, contemporary dance, and common daily experiences. They have invested more than a decade in developing their skills by conducting research and performance training in various African countries. They are a skilled d’jembe, dundun, and kalimba musician, exhibiting a unique Doundance style.

Alston served as dance captain for ten years at Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, maturing artistically under Amaniyea Payne, while also studying and performing independently with master teachers in West Africa, Brazil, and around the United States.

They are the founder and executive artistic director for Ayodele Drum & dance, a performance training organization created for womxn to affirm their self-confidence, strength, and artistic voice. Through this all-womxn nonprofit arts organization, they have built a strong artistic infrastructure that cultivates an intergenerational community of students and professional artists.

Alston serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and on the dance faculty at ChiArts High School, where their quintessential pedagogy is highly revered. They are also a level II certified ASA! fitness instructor.

A recipient of a 2018 3Arts Award, Alston takes pride in their twenty-plus years of queered, Afro-diasporic work that centers dance, youth mentorship, para-ability educational programs, and other supportive community engagement initiatives. Alston continuously levels up by internally archiving tradition, sweetening creativity, and igniting fire to the next generation of artists and visionaries.

Portrait photo by Sundjata Imhepi.