Our Stories - Ayo (Jones) Smith

Ayo is a Personal and Executive Coach, Consultant and Educator in Performing Arts. She has danced and taught with companies including Phoenix Dance Company, Irie Dance Theatre, Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble and ACE Dance and Music, and with DCD's help, successfully retrained to become a Personal and Executive Coach in 2015.


"I have a vivid memory of the exact moment I met my destiny. At the age of 3 I attended a nursery school attached to a church hall. One day I remember looking through the slatted glass window of the door to a hall full of little girls dressed in sky blue leotards, chiffon ballet skirts, tights and ballet shoes. The girls were dancing around and I looked up to my Mum and said, "I want to do that." My passion for dance was born and for the following 13 years I attended the "oan Clare School of Dance." Weekly ballet classes, increased to several times a week and extended to other styles including modern, tap and character.

At the age of 11 I was introduced to contemporary dance taught by Peter Huggins (MBE for services to British Dance). Peter invited me to join the Chapeltown Youth Dance Theatre Company where we performed nationally throughout the UK. The company provided the most amazing experiences, working with renowned choreographers such as Royston Maldoom and Tamara McLorg of Dundee Rep Dance Company (Scottish Dance Theatre), Ross McKim (Rambert), Aletta Collins (LCDT) and Neville Campbell (Phoenix). When I was 15 I successfully auditioned for the National Youth Dance Company allowing me to extend my knowledge of dance and meet other enthusiastic young dancers.

Having such extensive opportunities in my youth gave me the confidence to pursue my passion and dream and at 16 I went on to train at The Northern School of Contemporary Dance. After graduating I performed with Nexus Dance Company, Kokuma Dance Theatre, Irie Dance Theatre, Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble, ACE Dance and Music as well as other freelance commissions.

In 1995 I went back to study at the University of Leeds and graduated with an MA in Advanced Performing Arts. At the time I wasn't consciously making a decision to extend my skills as a dancer but gaining the MA provided me with more opportunities and I went onto perform as a lead dancer and chorus singer in the musicals Carnival Messiah, Spirit Global and Fire in Ice. I also went on to have acting leads in 'The Buddy Bolden Experience' and 'Flesh N'Steel' with Fittings Multimedia Arts, 'Theseus and the Bull Dancers,'Harry and Gwen' and 'Frankie and Johnny' with Theatre company Blah Blah Blah and 'Beauty And The Beast' at Lawrence Batley Theatre in association with Tutti Frutti.In many of these productions I was employed because of my ability to perform different roles. As a dancer I would say it is important to keep extending different areas of your craft within the industry. I also developed choreography, directorial and teaching skills allowing me to work outside of the performing arena. My Choreographic and Directorial productions include, 'The Yellow Doctress' and 'Living Stories-Journeys To' for The West Yorkshire Playhouse Touring Company, 'The Evocation of PaPa Mas' for Told by An Idiot, 'Ticket to Write' for Pains Plough and 'The Wiz' for The West Yorkshire Playhouse.

As I was impacted so profoundly by dance in my Youth I have always had a natural inclination to share my experience with young people. Throughout my career as a dancer and actor I have developed and devised dance, drama, storytelling workshops and curriculum programs for arts organizations. These include, The Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Space 2, Kala Sangam Arts, Phoenix Dance Theatre, RJC Dance and Mango Creative Arts where I developed and trained an education team to deliver carnival dance and arts workshops in schools and also co- wrote a Carnival Teaching Pack published by Primary Colours, distributed nationally throughout the UK. I have also taught extensively in schools, colleges and universities within the Yorkshire region and nationally throughout the UK.

Transitions can feel overwhelming and daunting, however they can also be a great source of reflection, a time to pause, gather thoughts and to learn. Making the decision to transition from being a dancer into another field is no exception. When I pursued my career as a dancer it was my DREAM and I think this is true for most dancers. With this in mind when considering a new career path I think it is important to ask yourself, what else other than dance makes me feel excited, engaged and alive? What else makes me feel passionate? And what does my future DREAM look like?

As dancers we have transferable skills that can be utilized in other careers. We have the ability to communicate and relate to other people, to overcome obstacles, adapt quickly to change, we are dedicated and willing to work hard. We are also creative and have the ability to step outside the box which allows us to see things from a different perspective. Individually you will have your own valuable skills and strengths, identifying these will also help you in your pursuit to find the career path that is right for you.

Connecting with my own skills, strengths, passion for questions and desire to help people, led me to my new career path of Coaching. Tapping into yours, will also aid you in your unfolding life chapter and help you to reveal your new career path."

To find out more about how we can help you, please contact Ellen Chambers, Grants and Careers Officer on ellen@thedcd.org.uk or 020 7831 1449.

You can support a dancer like Ayo to navigate career transition through the boundless appeal


"Transitions can feel overwhelming and daunting, however they can also be a great source of reflection, a time to pause, gather thoughts and to learn"


"I have a vivid memory of the exact moment I met my destiny"


"Ask yourself, what else other than dance makes me feel excited, engaged and alive? What else makes me feel passionate? And what does my future DREAM look like"