Artists' Bios

Kouakou Yao (Angelo)

Kouakou Yao "Angelo," master drummer and dancer, was born in Bouake, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa. At age 14 he joined Koteba, the premier Ivoirean dance and theater company, and he toured the world with that troupe from 1992 to 1997.

He was invited to the United States in 1997 by choreographer Ralph Lemon to create "Geography," a fusion of post-modern movement and traditional African dance. This production was performed at Yale Repertory Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and elsewhere throughout the United States. Angelo moved to Burlington, Vermont in 1998, where he formed AFRIQUE AYA. The company performed and taught residencies and workshops in colleges and schools around the New England area.

In 2002, Angelo and his wife Jennifer Clay moved to Northwest Arkansas, first to Eureka Springs and, in 2010, to Fayetteville. AFRIQUE AYA now performs and teaches in schools and at private events throughout the Mid-South. Angelo also teaches weekly drum and dance classes in Eureka Springs and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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Jenny Clay: Dancer

Jenny studied modern and traditional ballet at a young age, though she was always more interested in hip-hop and break-dance. Her growing passion for movement led her to study Afro-Caribbean dance as a freshman at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT.

There she studied with master teachers from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Guinea. As a junior, she took her interest to Ghana, studying dance and traveling with the Global Village Project. She returned for a second visit to Ghana, to research her senior thesis. She then created the performance piece AGBEYEYIE HABORBOR (“New Life Dance”).

Jenny married Angelo and the couple moved to her native Arkansas, where Jenny now performs with AFRIQUE AYA and works with children at a local mental-health agency. Jenny and Angelo are raising three beautiful children of their own