China Smith Founding Artistic Director

China Smith performer, director, teacher, producer, and now, Founding Director of Ballet Afrique and East Austin Performing Raised in East Austin herself, as well as teaching dance for over eight years in East Austin schools and performing arts programs, China found limited opportunities for exposure to African American art, which she felt was crucial to the self empowerment of her young predominantly African American students. With strong roots in the community, China served as the Director of Performing Arts at Texas Empowerment Academy from 2004 -2011 where she developed curriculum for the performing arts program, advises on hiring, teaches dance for grades 5-9, and has established a youth performing company. Since 2004, she fully produces the dance productions at TEA, serving as director, choreographer, theatre set/tech designer, costume designer, accountant, and advertising/promoter. These productions include Blackout (annually 2005-2008), Out the Box (2011), Message In the Music (201, Where We Come From (2008), Moving in the Blue (2006), Connected (2005), East Austin Revival (2004). Drawn to the stage at an early age, nine-year-old China debuted as a dancer/actor in Porgy and Bess at the Bass Concert Hall. Since then, China has danced in countless productions and events in Austin, including Tapestry Dance Company’s Esprit, Austin Salsa Music Festival, Discover by Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklorico de Texas, Huston-Tillotson’s Hispanic Heritage Festival, DANCEfest, African American Festival of Dance, and Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance Company’s Celebrando. China danced at the 2008 Black Arts Movement festival in the debut performance of Ballet Afrique to name a few. China’s “street dance” style was developed through her extensive travels throughout the Caribbean studying traditional African derived folk dance. From 1998 – 2005, however China choose to focus her studies on traditional dance from Puerto Rico training directly under Bomba and Plena dance Master Modesto Cepeda. China began studying choreography with Kathy Dunn Hamrick in 2001 and has actively been creating dance works ever since. In 2008 with the creation of Ballet Afrique, China made a priority of getting the training that was not accessible to her as a young street dancer. Now training in classical ballet, modern dance, including Horton and Graham Technique, and African dance, China has had the rear opportunity to train with Master dancers/choreographers such as Dudley Williams, Mel Tomlinson, Bruce Wood, Milton Myers and Chuck Davis.

Daniele Renee Martin, associate company director

Originally from Detroit, Michigan Daniele Renee Martin began dancing in the Detroit Public School system with M L King High School Dance Workshop Program. While the Dance Workshop company’s focus was modern dance, Daniele was introduced to other forms of dance, including ballet and lyrical. During her high school years she participated in many master classes, workshops and concerts. In 1997, Daniele went on to college and attended The Defiance College in Defiance, OH where she received her Bachelors in Psychology and her Masters in Business and Organizational Leadership. While in college she competed in the Miss Ohio Organization scholarship pageants (1998-2001) where dance was her talent. During her 11 year stay in Ohio, she taught weekly lyrical classes at the local YMCA as well as danced, choreographed and taught liturgical dance classes at her church. She also participated in local plays, fashion shows and other community related events. Daniele moved to Austin in July, 2007 and currently works for University of Texas at Austin as a Hall Coordinator in the Division of Housing & Food Service. Outside of work she dances with the Shoreline Christian Center Dance Ministry and teaches monthly dance technique classes. Most recently she participated in the Drama Dance, Sister Moses: The story of Harriet Tubman. Her favorite quote and motto is, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but about dancing in the rain.” Daniele is excited to be a part of the Ballet Afrique family.

Carly Criscoe Ballet

Carly Criscoe began her ballet training under the direction of Tanju and Patricia Tuzer in Dallas, Texas. She has performed in various community theatre musical productions throughout the Dallas area, attended summer intensive programs with David Howard and with the Boston Ballet, and has spent the past four years performing with Austin Metamorphosis Dance Ensemble.

Denise Washington Executive Administrate Assistant

Originally form Kansas City, KS Denise began dancing in the recreation centers in her community. She quickly discovered her gift for not only dance but for acting and singing as well. At the age of 12 she joined a local youth choir and started a lyrical dance group at her church which she directed until graduation.  Denise’s passion and background in dance makes her a very understanding, knowledgeable, and dedicated assistant. Ballet Afrique is honored to have her on staff.