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.
Cameron Blunt, Dance Instructor
Cameron Blunt, dance instructor and owner of Lavysh Dance Company, was born in Austin, TX where her cheer & dance training started at the age of 5.With over 14 years of experience coaching. Her passion began in her early years of training, she cheer competitively and regionally for a local Austin competitive team for over 6 years. Being a lover of gymnastics, cheerleading, and dancing. Cameron has always been faithful to the development of young children and herself.
After moving to Dallas during her college years, she absolutely fell in love with the world of Dance. Throughout those years, she coached and trained young children in cheer & Dance. She also was Lead dance instructor for the youth Lyrical and Praise team at her home church. She also has coached gymnastics and cheer tumbling.
She started Lavysh Dance Company in 2014 after relocating back to Austin Texas. Lavysh has been a successful national award winning team. Cameron continues to pursue her dance passion, traveling and dancing back up for various artists. She’s had the opportunity to coach at many wonderful gyms and studios where not only did she meet a lot of great athletes and dancers but also gained invaluable knowledge, hands-on experience, and most importantly a great deal of patience. It’s those things Coach Cam hopes to pass on to her students.
Wendy Bascom, Dance Instructor
Wendy Bascom, was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. She was exposed to rhythms and dances of the region at an early age. After she was established in Austin, she focused her energies on additional Latin and Afro-Latin dance styles such as Bachata, Salsa and Kizomba. She has performed on big stages during dance Festivals and Congresses such as Oaxaca Salsa & Bachata Festival(Mexico), Houston Salsa Congress(US), B.I.G. Salsa Festival(US) and NeoKizomba Festival(US) with her teams, as well as on local venues.
Additionally she has participated in other dance events such as Miami Bachata Festival, Dallas Bachata Festival, Bachateando Miami, Aventura Dance Cruise, Afro-Latin Festival and Texas Salsa Congress taking numerous hours of training with internationally recognized talent such as Vladimir Pineda(Mexico) , Amneris Martinez(Spain), Juan Matos(Italy), Magna Gopal(US), Sara Lopez(Spain) and Enah & Carolina(Paris) just to mention a few.
She is one of the Executive Directors of Pa’La Rumba Austin, which offers training and performance opportunities for Ladies and Kids. She is passionate about dancing and helping individuals in different stages of their dancing journey to grow and excel. Pa’La Rumba is in a mission to contribute to make our local dance community bigger and stronger.