Mrs. Empress LaVondia Smith
(Stage Name Empress Smith)

LaVondia Smith well known as (Bryant-Square) Artistic/Executive Director of Nathifa Dance Company & Outreach Inc. A gifted and talented dancer and choreographer in West African dance and African American dance. She began her extensive theatrical and dance training at a young age while living in Brooklyn, New York. She was taught modern dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company, West African dance at the Alonzo Players and at the Brooklyn Restoration Center under the well-known Charles Moore.

In 1986 she relocated back to her hometown Birmingham AL where she continued her studies with the community dance companies and studios such as Mary Foshee and Terri Weksler at Southern Dance Works, an internship with Donna Todd of Sculpture Essence Dance Studio where she learned the operation and administration of a studio. Her knowledge of West African dance was broadening under the directorship of Ife Balams Birmingham Dance Coalition. She later began to study under King Sundiata Keite of the and Cultural Society based in Detroit, MI.  At this point she met another mentor where she began to study under Omelika Kuumba the Artistic Director Emerita of Giwayen Mata, and Uhura Dance Company Atlanta GA. LaVondia received the Fellowship grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts to attend the Kankouran West African Dance conference in Washington, D.C. At this conference she began to deeper broaden her training of West African dance under many master dancers and drummers Yousouff Koumbassa Guinea West Africa.

She was granted the Individual Grant through the Cultural Arts Alliance of the Medici Society sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Richard Ireland Pigford. September 2007. LaVondia is recognized as one of the top female teachers of African dance and drumming in the State of Alabama. She is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, among those are the Fusion award, given to individuals that have made valuable contributions to the city in their chosen field of endeavor. And a proclamation from The City of Birmingham City Council and special recognition from Jefferson County Commission.