Who We Are

Photo by Ernesto Javier Photography

ShaLeigh Dance Works (SDW) is a nonprofit, dance-theatre company dedicated to creating work for social change. 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 has had a dedicated practice of creating and self-producing work within the fields of dance and theatre since 2005 and has been programming full seasons in North Carolina since 2017. 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. SDW is based in Durham and honored to be celebrating their fifth season in North Carolina. 

The company was first founded in 2005 with a premiere of Returning at the Broach Theater in Greensboro, NC. Since receiving a standing ovation at their NYC debut of Dedicated to [ ] because of [ ] (and vice versa) at Judson Church in 2007, a whirlwind of performances launched SDW into recognition as an emerging dance-theatre company and a new force on the international dance scene. Their success has since taken them from performances and creative residencies in NYC to Germany, England, Israel, and Japan. Since establishing Durham, NC as their home base in 2014, SDW has been invited to create and perform throughout NC, VA, and NYC in dance venues, museums, sites, and festivals including multiple tours with the North Carolina Dance Festival (NCDF), the prestigious American Dance Festival (ADF), and presenting work as showcased artists of Durham Independent Dance Artists (DIDA), the North Carolina Presenters Consortium, and Booking Dance Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center. 

Known for its diverse ensemble that consists of performers and creators ranging in genres from theatre, performance art, drag, martial art, modern dance, visual art, and contemporary ballet, SDW has had the privilege of receiving commissions, residencies, and most recently their third NYC tour since landing in NC. Their 2019 sold-out premiere of Bamboo Wind received standing ovations and critical acclaim. Triangle Arts Review called it “sensual, engaging and breathtakingly beautiful.” Their 2018 premiere of 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 the 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 theatre.”

Each year, ShaLeigh Dance Works creates programming at the intersection of art, culture, and social change to uplift and enrich our communities. The company also offers multiple performances each year that bring mixed-ability movers to professional stages and panel discussions on making dance inclusive and welcoming to people with disabilities. 

Comerford’s commissions include the American Dance Festival, Cambridge University, Keio University, Washington & Lee University, Cirque USA, North Carolina Museum of Art, Arts Access, Shannon Media Inc., Campaneria Ballet Company, Durham Ballet Theatre, Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke Ballet Theatre, Roanoke Children’s Theatre, Virginia Ballet Academy, and City Modern Ensemble. 

SDW has received recognition and awards from MAP Fund, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, North Carolina Arts Council, Durham Arts Council, Symonds Family Foundation, and Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, and Dance Theatre Workshop.


Touring History

• 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 2019The 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, W & L University, Lexington, VA 2008, 2009, 2011
• Mulberry St Theater, NYC 2007
• American Dance Guild Performance Festival, Hudson Guild Theatre, NYC 2007
• The Flea Theater, NYC 2007
• Dance Theatre Workshop, NYC 2007
• Judson Church, NYC 2007