Emerging Artists Laboratory

The BlackLight Summit's Emerging Arts Laboratory creates opportunities for performance, networking, mentorship and professional experience. Artists in our Lab share a passion for radical reimagining, Black excellence, artistic integrity and challenging artistry.


Ashayla Byrd

Ashayla Byrd, raised in Virginia Beach, Va. began her dance training at eight years old at Old Donation Center for the Gifted and Talented (ODC) followed by the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Salem High School. She explored her love of the arts at Shenandoah University, graduating with a B.A. in both Dance and English. Ashayla serves as the Presentation Administrative Assistant at Dance Place under the leadership of Artistic Director dani tirrell while also performing with D.C.-based choreographers. She hopes to continue studying dance and the communities who engage with it, creating equitable creative spaces for the marginalized.



Raeanna “Rae” Grey

Raeanna “Rae” Grey (she/her) is a 23-year-old movement artist who currently resides in Washington, D.C. She currently works as the Programs Assistant at Creative Suitland. In her free time, she enjoys taking dance classes, teaching dance classes and choreographing. Rae has performed with multiple companies in the DMV area including ReVison, UpRooted and Dance Art Theater. She has showcased her work in her co-produced show, The Hollow: New Beginnings, Transformation Showcase, Coalescence and will also be showcasing her work in Dance Place’s DC Dance Festival. She is currently engaging in dance to discover her “why?” through her love for creative artistic expression.




Anastasia Johnson

Anastasia Johnson is a dance artist, educator, curator and choreographer born and raised in Richmond, Va. After receiving her B.A in Dance from James Madison University in 2017, Johnson relocated to Maryland to further her artistry in the DMV area. Since relocating, Johnson has performed with various companies and artists. Johnson has been developing her own dance company called A.J. Collabs (AJC), who has had the opportunity to perform at multiple local showcases and festivals. Johnson is the co-founder of Coalescence, an alumni of the 202Creates Residency Program, and has been featured in a DanceTeacher Magazine article.




Stephen Lyons II

Stephen Lyons II is a DMV-based multidisciplinary artist working as a dancer, actor, choreographer, writer and director for the stage and screen. He has performed with Phunktions Hip Hop Dance Company, Extreme Lengths Productions and Culture Shock DC where he served as Artistic Director for three years. He was selected by Dance Place for the 2020 New Releases Choreographer’s Showcase and the 2021 Exquisite Frame dance film showcase. He was also a recipient of a Vital Signs Mini-Grant from UMD to create a project that affirms Black lives. Stephen studies Theatre and Dance at the University of Maryland where he seeks new ways to tell stories.





Selyse. S's seem to follow her around. E is for eloquence. The L is laconic like her speech. Y sounds similar to the question she thought she’d be asked, but it turned out to be few with that inquiry in mind. Another S is coincidental yet seems fitting since s's are a thematic idea in her life or perhaps it is for her soul that is compassionate and reserved. The last E is silent like the former title of her first solo. In essence, Selyse is a multidisciplinary artist who enjoys collaborating with others in the performing arts.




Jay Williams

Jay Williams is a multi-disciplinary visual artist based in the DMV by way of North Carolina. Blending film, dance and graphic design, Jay seeks to build innovative, personal and inclusive worlds that feel both familiar and fantastic. As a Black and queer graduate from North Carolina Central University, he bases his work in the experiences of his identities, while also using his platform to collaborate with other marginalized artistic voices. He began his dance training under Nicole Oxendine at Hillside High School. He would later go on to explore dance at North Carolina Central University under the tutelage of Nancy D. Pinckney. He is a member of Koffee Dance Company and has participated in the American Dance Festival where he performed repertory from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company (reset by Shalya-Vie Jenkins). He has also performed with Chuck “Baba Chuck” Davis, in Masha Maddux’s Wake Forest Dance Festival and choreographed for schools on the primary level as well as colleges in North Carolina.