Who We Are

Photo by Slater Mapp

ShaLeigh Dance Works (SDW) is a nonprofit, dance-theater company dedicated to inspiring people of all abilities, social backgrounds, cultures, and generations with the transformative power of dance. Under the direction of founder and artistic director ShaLeigh Comerford, SDW is recognized for its socially conscious works, expansive movement language, and commitment to community action.

ShaLeigh first founded the company with a premiere at the 4th annual Greensboro Fringe Festival in 2005. Since receiving a standing ovation at their NYC debut at Judson Church two years later, a whirlwind of performances launched SDW into recognition as an emerging dance- theater company. Their success has taken them from performances and creative residencies in NYC to Germany, England, Israel, and Japan. With a focus on artistic excellence, nurturing artists, and designing programs to empower those impacted by marginalization, SDW aims to provide a concrete example of how dance can transform people’s lives and enrich society.

Each year, SDW creates programming at the intersection of art, culture, and social change to enrich our communities. The company also offers multiple performances that bring mixed-ability movers to professional stages and panel discussions on making dance inclusive to people with disabilities. SDW’s engagement practices are an integral part of their work and include partnerships with The Reality Center, Arts Access, Vision Insights, InSightful Visionaries, and Dark Room Ballet to provide advocacy, opportunities, and access to the arts for all people.

SDW has had the privilege of receiving commissions, residencies, and most recently their third NYC tour since establishing Durham as their home base. The company has been invited to create and perform in dance venues, museums, sites, and festivals including the prestigious American Dance Festival, Women’s Theatre Festival, multiple tours with the North Carolina Dance Festival, and has presented work as showcased artists of Shannon Media Inc., Durham Independent Dance Artists, the North Carolina Presenters Consortium, and Booking Dance Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center. From inspiration to world premiere, SDW annually commissions composers to create original new music for their programs as well as a diverse collaborative artistic team of performers, designers, and creators.

Since 2017, their annual world premieres have received standing ovations and critical acclaim. Their 2022 premiere enVISION was lauded as “a sensational and poetically eye-opening performance” by CVNC. Their ADF commissioned work Meadow Dance was named Best of 2021 for Outstanding Choreography by Chatham Life and Style. The Fruit’s venue owner Tim Walter called their 2020 premiere The In-Between “a sound experience that’s among the best I’ve ever heard in dance — or any performance. This is a work in which all the elements combine in ways that captivate an audience.” Triangle Arts Review called their 2019 premiere Bamboo Wind “sensual, engaging and breathtakingly beautiful.” Their 2018 premiere I Promise was listed by Byron Woods of INDY Week as one of “Five exceptional dances from 2017,” and their ADF premiere of Dedicated to [ ] because of [ ] (and vice versa) was hailed by Kate Dobbs Ariail of CVNC as “a marvelous surprise … with its mix of Gaga-style freedom of movement and balletic elegance … well suited to the complex balance of dance theater.”

SDW has received recognition and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, MAP Fund, New Music USA, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, South Arts, Triangle Community Foundation, North Carolina Arts Council, Durham Arts Council, Symonds Family Foundation, Dance Theatre Workshop, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture for their research and performance collaborative spanning artists in the US, Germany, London, and Holland on the relationships between language, movement, and sound.

Touring History

• Downtown Cary Park, Cary, NC 2023
• DPAC, Durham, NC 2023
• Goodyear Arts, Charlotte, NC 2023
• National Women’s Theatre Festival, Frank Thompson Hall, Raleigh, NC 2022
• ADF’s 89th Season, The Fruit, Durham, NC 2022
• Lineberry Hall, Raleigh, NC 2021
• ADF at Mystic Farm and Distillery, Durham, NC 2021
 • The Fruit, Durham, NC 2020
• Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC 2020
• The Carolina Theatre, Durham, NC 2019
• The Rickhouse, Durham, NC 2019
• Gallery 202, Roanoke, VA 2019
• Carolina Performing Arts, Chapel Hill, NC 2019
• Anchorlight, Raleigh, NC 2019
• The Washington Duke Inn, Durham, NC 2019
• Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC 2019
• The Cary Theatre, Cary, NC 2019
• DPAC, Durham, NC 2019
• The Fruit, Durham, NC January 2019
• Greensboro Project Space Gallery, Greensboro, NC November 2018
• BeBe Theatre, Asheville, NC Setpember 2018
• The Ritz, Raleigh, NC July 2018
• PSI Theatre, Durham, NC 2018
• Dixon Place, NYC 2018
• BOOM Festival, Charlotte, NC 2018
• DPAC, Durham, NC 2018
• North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC 2018
• Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC 2018
• Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC 2018
• The Fruit, Durham, NC 2017
• Duke Energy Theatre, Charlotte, NC 2017
• Carolina Theatre, Durham, NC  2011, 2017
• American Dance Festival, Reynolds Theatre, NC 2015
• Community Arts Center, Wilmington, NC 2014
• Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, Orlando, FL 2014
• The Ailey Citygroup Theatre, NYC 2014
• Jones Auditorium, Raleigh, NC 2013
• Valborg Theater Boone, NC 2013
• Aycock Auditorium, Greensboro, NC 2013
• Robinson Hall, Charlotte, NC, 2013
• Roppongi Stripe’s Space, Tokyo, Japan 2013
• Noguchi Room, Keio University (MITA), Tokyo, Japan 2013
• Dance Film shown at Kaaitheater, Brussels, Belgium 2013
• PSI Theatre, Durham, NC 2013
• Cambridge University, Judith E Wilson, UK 2012
• National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China 2011
• Lenfest Center for the Arts, Lexington, VA 2008, 2009, 2011
• Mulberry St Theater, NYC 2007
• American Dance Guild Festival, Hudson Guild Theatre, NYC 2007
• The Flea Theater, NYC 2007
• Dance Theatre Workshop, NYC 2007
• Judson Church, NYC 2007