NWTC imbues dance lessons with broader messages about self-esteem, respect and dissent — lessons that take on new life in the studio’s performances. For example, NWTC instructor Shakiah Danielson choreographed a number in response to police violence against AfricanAmericans set to Janelle Monáe’s Hell You Talmbout. The piece, performed by students, won the Audience Award at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, the world’s largest youth film festival.
“It’s a conversation about how police fit into our community,” says Ayco of the performance. Her three decades at Seattle Police Department (she retired as a supervisor for the Records Division in 2017) taught her just how vital such conversations are to our community.
“My work is to help children define themselves as socially conscious young people, with a vision of building tomorrow,” Ayco says. “We don’t want to raise another generation on senseless acts of violence.” Her life commitment is to define and share the African American experience through the performing arts.
Ms. Melba is the creator of African American Odyssey, a touring performance inclusive of spoken word, dance, and music that expresses the history and struggles of African Americans from a place of pride. Her new work, Odyssey, explores the common threads of culture, inclusive of dance, music, food, art, and traditions of African Americans and people of African Diaspora. Odyssey is a work-in-progress and the inspiration for creativity in the realms of dance, spoken word and storytelling. Odyssey 1 was presented at Seattle Theater Group’s 2015 production Dance This – the Brazilian Connection.
Through her dedication to the community and offering opportunities for growth and enlightenment for people of all ages and backgrounds, Ms. Melba has made a lasting, positive imprint on the greater Seattle area. To this end, she has received numerous accolades including the 2009 Mayor’s Art Award, the 2017 African Town Queen Award, and the 2017 Martin Luther King Medal of Community Service Award for District No. 2 of the City of Seattle.