Stacey Allen standing in front of the "Absolute Equality" mural at the African American History Research Center (Gregory School).
Stacey Allen standing in front of the "Absolute Equality" mural at the African American History Research Center (Gregory School), 1300 Victor St., Houston, 77019. Credit: Aswad Walker

Stacey Allen, founder of Nia’s Daughters Movement Collective, is on a mission to empower Black women and girls through dance. And she has been an incredible success at accomplishing just that.

“Our mission is to create and support art and wellness initiatives through the lens of Black women and girls,” said Allen. “We are a multi-generational group of like-minded Black women artists.”

This collective of sisters embodies a multigenerational and multidisciplinary approach to creating cultural arts events and wellness offerings that speak to our communities, and it was all inspired by Allen’s various life experiences.

“I was inspired to form Nia’s Daughters Movement Collective from a combination of life experiences, mainly motherhood, my experience teaching in public schools, and of course my experience in Black expressive culture, dancing and things like that,” said Allen. “But once I started having my own children, I realized I needed a structure that allowed for mothers to bring their babies into the practice. But I also wanted to create work that spoke to Black women and mothers. That’s kind of where our stories derive from and that’s like the meat of what we create about.”

Stacey’s choreographic perspective is to create works that are culturally competent and incorporate social justice and activism and embrace nontraditional theatergoers. From starting with Urban Souls to co-founding Pretty Cultured to leading Nia’s Daughters Movement Collective, her work is to be delivered back to the people.

Houston native Allen’s formal dance training started outside of her hometown, in Huntsville while attending Sam Houston State University. But she says she received the bulk of her training here in the Bayou City.

“I studied dance at college, but most notably here in Houston. I danced for Urban Souls Dance Company for many, many seasons under the artistic direction of Harrison Guy and Walter Hub. I studied the Dunham technique. I just had a lot of dance experiences and I also, which is very important to me, taught dance in public schools. So, I’ve taught dance in every kind sector: charter schools, public schools, elementary, middle, high school, a little bit of college. That is how I’ve been able to get the inspiration to start the company.

Recent work includes “Formed in My Grandmother’s Womb” as a part of Project Row Houses’ Round 50: Race, Health, and Motherhood (2019), “A Single Thread Weaves a Future” as part of Fresh Arts’ SpaceTaking Residency (2021) and “The Fairytale Project” at Discovery Green (2022.) Stacey Allen is a currently a Project Freeway Fellow with Diverse Work (22-23.) Stacey also serves as the Director of Artistic Programming at Harris County Cultural Arts Council.

This year has been extremely productive for Nia’s Daughter, performing “Liturgy of Remembrance,” “Aesthetic Inheritances,” and “Fairytale Project: Pedagogy and Performance” SXSW EDU.

“We created this show called ‘The Fairytale Project,’ and it’s essentially a historically inspired dance theater production based on the love story of Jim and Winnie Shankle, who are the founders of the Texas Freedom Colony Shankleville. My husband and my children are descendants of Jim and Winnie Shankle. ‘The Fairytale Project’ premiered last year at Discovery Green, and we’ve been on tour essentially since then.

Allen’s group performed “The Fairytale Project” on June 10 for the Kyle Texas Juneteenth Festival, an experience she says was part of a week she views as her group’s personal highlight, which ended the next day with incredible news.

“On Sunday (June 11) I was announced as one of the Houston BANF (BIPOC Arts Network Fund) Artist Awardee. So, that was an extreme honor. Out of almost 400 applicants, they selected 25 and I was one of them, and also SisterMama Sonya, who performed as our Granny Griot, was also selected as one of the 25 artists,” said Allen, who also has a master’s degree in cross-cultural studies from the University of Houston Clear Lake.

And she has advice for young sisters contemplating getting involved in dance.

“Just do it. Dance can sometimes be the embodiment of colonialism and white supremacy, but know that our people have been dancing since antigua (ancient days) and tap into that and use that as inspiration to continue your practice.”

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...