Artist Soapbox features Artistic Director ShaLeigh Comerford

Artist Soapbox Presents

Artistic Director ShaLeigh Comerford

How do we do the impossible? Choreographer ShaLeigh Comerford explores collaboration and sustainability with host Tamara Kissane.

Creating a sustainable revenue stream for artists often seems impossible – how do we do the impossible? ShaLeigh Comerford, dancer, choreographer, and the Artistic Director of ShaLeigh Dance Works discusses how she and her dancers create original work through collaborative questioning, her quest to attain financial sustainability, and arts activism. We also learn about two movement languages – Gaga, and ShaLeigh’s own Shaga.

Artist Soapbox is a podcast featuring artists in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Durham-based theatre-maker, Tamara Kissane, chats with artists about their work, their plans, and their manifestos*. This podcast is minimally edited and designed to give listeners a sense of the artist’s voice. Podcasts episodes are released on Mondays. The final Thursday of each month is reserved for a blog post.

Listen HERE.



NCDF Asheville Tour

North Carolina Dance Festival Presents


We were honored to presented by the North Carolina Dance Festival in Asheville, NC this past weekend! We performed at the charming Be Be Theatre which keenly reminded us of some of our favorite theatres in NYC!The BeBe Theater is a cozy and intimate black-box theater along a back street in downtown Asheville. The theatre is run by two local creatives: Susan and Giles Collard. We were warmly welcomed, celebrated and were honored to sell out our last show. The shared evening also featured Megan Mazarick, Ashley McCullough, Kristen Taylor Duncan and local group Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre. We were excited to present “Dead Man’s Walk,” the touring version of our recent evening-length “I Promise,” and a response to MLK Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. It may have been our strongest performance yet.

During the artist Q & A following the performance, we received numerous heartfelt responses to our work. Our work was met with more “thank you’s” than questions, more observations and responses than inquires. It was a beautiful sentiment to knowing that we reached our audience on this tour. We sure hope to be back again soon and left feeling humbled and grateful for the opportunity!

Huge thanks to Anne Morris at NC Dance Project for her passion to cultivate our NC Dance community and all of the opportunities it provides for us as artists! As well as thanks to Susan and Giles Collard for being incredible hosts for our work!

Here is Anne in early morning action on our behalf! For sure the culprit to selling out our last show!


I was honored to be invited to offer a free community master class on Saturday morning at the BeBe Theater. I was excited to share Shaga, the company’s movement language and how we used it to create the opening sequence of “Dead Man’s Walk.” We were met with such an enthusiastic response, I believe several of the students will soon be heading to Durham to join one of our upcoming community classes! Huge thanks to this willing and eager group of movers! We had a wonderful time sharing and moving with all of you!

Follow the festival here.



SDW scouted for RAW: natural born artists

ShaLeigh Dance Works was honored to have been scouted for RAW: natural born artists. The one night event featured 50+ hand-selected emerging artists across fashion, music, visual art, photography, performing art, hair, makeup and accessory design, for a one night creative explosion! Guests wandered through pop-up interactive art galleries and experienced  incredible live performances and runway shows.

We had loads of fun creating a new adaptation of E Pluribus Unum II with a Downton Abbey twist and runway show both inspired by our last company photo shoot with Robin Gallant. We are eager to share this version again and expect a new project brewing on the horizon with Durham’s own DJ Playplay.

RAW believes that we are stronger together than we are apart. By joining together we can do more to share the creative culture of our generation. RAW thinks that every independent artist deserves the right to be seen, heard and loved.

Head to to see the full lineup of the incredible local artists we joined!

Our 2017-18 Season Finale: E Pluribus Unum II

ShaLeigh Dance Works’ E Pluribus Unum II
Our World Premiere collaboration with Elizabeth Corbett & Alejandro Santoyo

We closed our 3rd season in NC this past weekend with a World Premiere at the Durham Arts Council’s PSI Theatre!  We were absolutely honored to receive a standing ovation and a sold out show!

This work was inspired by collaboration and interpretation of the emotive architecture rooted in William Forsythe’s Improvisation Technologies and was our first collaborative project with acclaimed soloist, international guest artist and former Forsythe dancer Elizabeth Corbett.  The work also built from my nine year relationship with Elizabeth as my teacher, choreographer and mentor. Our work throughout the years has ultimately taken the form of collaboration by utilizing the nine point system developed by William Forsythe as a way of engendering movement through a specific set of directional tasks.

Over loads of dinners and coffee conversations last summer, we acknowledged how much we have learned from each other and after years of studying and performing under her, we have grown into a rich friendship with a keen interest in each others creative process. Ultimately we decided to create our own separate works in different locations from a singular script that Elizabeth would develop based on the Laban cube. I was excited by the challenge of working in this new way with my dancers and by honing in on the emotive potential of architectural thinking. I’m certain that this is just the beginning of many more collaborative projects we will do together. The title of the work implies the oneness out of many as a response to both the polarization we have felt as a nation as well as how the courageous process of creation unites us.

We were also joined by international composer and pianist Alejandro Santoyo who performed an original score for the work. Alejandro performed live while utilizing the composition developed from the movement’s organizational principles to allow for moments of improvisation. Working collaboratively, the three of us enjoyed challenging the traditional distinction between choreographer, composer and dancer, and using this methodology to question hierarchy, authorship and disciplinary boundaries.

We were also honored to be joined by Jessica Hulick of Moms Demand Action and Pastor Cornelius Battle of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church who gave a short appeal following the show to continue our efforts from Durham’s March for Our Lives and further the conversation on gun violence prevention.

Photos courtesy of Ryan Pham.  Interview courtesy of Argyle Rebel Films. This premiere was made possible in part by the generous support of the Durham Arts Council’s Facility Grant. For more information, please visit

Shaga at Moogfest2018!

Check out Company Member Hannah Marr rocking out at our Workshop! We love this shot taken by Stephanie Leathers.

We were absolutely honored to have been invited to offer Shaga at Moogfest 2018! Our SOLD OUT workshop took place Friday, May 18th, at 6pm at Global Breath. New and old participants alike agreed it was our best one yet! Several artists reached out to us post festival to let us know they were already planning to be back next year! We are already getting excited! The clock is ticking on their 2019 Super Early Bird price for 2018 attendees! You can get your tickets here: MoogFest2019

We offered two hours of guided movement and dance set to a unique soundtrack. It was incredible to share our movement language and playlist with other artists, futurists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and scientists! You can find our Moogfest listing here: Shaga at Moogfest 2018

Since 2004, Moogfest has been a forum for the exchange of ideas. By day, Moogfest is a platform for conversation and experimentation, attracting creative and tech enthusiasts for four days of participatory programming in Durham, North Carolina. By night, Moogfest presents cutting-edge performances by early pioneers in electronic music, contemporary pop innovators, and avant-garde experimentalists in venues throughout the city.

Moogfest is a tribute to analog synthesizer pioneer Dr. Robert Moog and the profound influence his inventions have had on how we hear the world over the last 60 years. The exchange between engineer and musician that he fostered is celebrated with a unique festival format where the creative process is understood as collaboration among many people, across time and space, in commerce and culture.

For more information about this incredible festival, please visit:

Using the Power of Art to Unite and Strengthen Community


ShaLeigh Dance Works performed this past Saturday, April 21st, at the Intersection Stage at Plaza Midwood.

We were honored to perform in this year’s Charlotte’s BOOM Festival, an annual artist-led showcase of contemporary and experimental performance and visual art created on the fringes of popular culture. The event was three days long, but the spirit behind it is more than a weekend experience. BOOM is a movement, born from a belief in the explosive power of art to unite and strengthen our community. Their mission is to spark creativity and collaboration among a diverse group of artists, performers and audiences. To deliver on that mission, they have gathered a unique coalition of artists, volunteers, nonprofits, businesses and neighborhood organizations who come together to transform the way art and culture are created and shared in the Queen City.

For more information, please visit:


ShaLeigh Dance Works also performed this past Monday, April 23rd at DPAC.

We were absolutely honored to perform with Janie Desmond and Micaiah Okonkwo for Reality Ministries’ 2018 Talent Show at DPAC! This extraordinary community event featured performers of ALL abilities and moved us to our core! The talent show is an annual evening that highlights the wonderful talents and unique gifts of our diverse community. Incredible artwork was on display in the lobby and the stage shined with a wonderful variety of numerous performances spanning the full spectrum of performing arts. Reality Ministries creates wonderful opportunities for adults with and without developmental disabilities to experience belonging, kinship and the life-changing Reality of Christ’s love.

To learn more and get involved, please visit: Reality Ministries

Invocations at NCMA

On Saturday, April 7th, ShaLeigh Dance Works was honored to create a movement installation in the East Building for the Sold Out Opening of North Carolina’s Museum of Art’s You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences.

The movement installation, entitled “Invocations,” invited community members to move through a score of spatial patterns with light and sound emanating from their cell phones. They activated the entry way with traveling light and sound to stir the senses of the viewers in preparation for this spectacularly immersive art work. SDW Company members were placed throughout the gallery to perform a series of solos, duets and ensemble work created from scores that activated their delicate sensuality through smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.  Check out our video above, courtesy of Argyle Rebel Films.

The exhibit will continue to run through July 22nd and features immersive art installations by 15 contemporary artists, including large-scale light works, sound installations, video works, mixed-media room-size environments, and site-specific projects. The artists in this exhibition employ a diversity of media to create intriguing experiences that engage the senses, activate the imagination, and provide connections between the viewer and the work of art. This exhibition takes over an entire floor of the NCMA’s temporary exhibition galleries and also transforms the landscape in the Museum Park, creating a campus-wide presentation of contemporary experiential art.

Become part of the art. You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences, is open through July 22, 2018.

Plan your visit here:

We Danced and Marched for Our Lives

On March 24th, I led the Durham March for Our Lives at CCB Plaza to stand in solidarity with the movement to end gun violence in our schools and in our communities. Little did I know that my effort to create a platform for the Durham community would gather 2000 residents. It was a day I will never forget and I could not have done it without my brother, Bryan Wright and my husband, Shannon Fairbanks. We hosted nineteen speakers including students, Senators, Congressmen, Commissioners, and community service organizations. We were joined by 43 volunteers and helped us register dozens of new voters. You can read more about our rally here: The Herald Sun

Before I received permission to host the March, I had been planning a Dance for Our Lives Flash Mob. Over 50 community members joined together in the cold rain several hours after the March to reactivate the CCB Plaza once again and this time with  dance.  Witnessing everyone moving together as one created a powerful image of togetherness and interconnectedness.  It seemed to enhance the visibility of taking a communal approach to life’s challenges and relating to each other across cultural and ethnic differences.  It seemed to also pay tribute to early tribal cultures where dance as ritual was used to grieve, to celebrate and to problem solve together. In essence, it echoed what had happened earlier that day: People coming together as individuals across the spectrum of age and race to share the tears and rage and passion that creates change.  Thousands of us found our common ground in the roots of our exposed humanity. And from there, we will March on and we will remember just how important it is to move from grief to action.

Ways to stay involved:

North Carolinians Against Gun Violence

Moms Demand Action


North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Action NC

Thanks to Ryan Pham for the commemorative video of Durham March for Our Lives and to Michael Washington at Argyle Rebel Films for the video of Dance for Our Lives. And a sincere thank you to all of you who came out in support!