ShaLeigh Dance Works was honored to join over 70 North Carolina artists who came together to perform in the 24 driveways and lawns of Durham’s Trinity Ridge neighborhood in an effort to provide artistic healing during these difficult times.
In a brief interview with Byron Woods of IndyWeek, ShaLeigh talks about how healing goes back to the beginnings of why we dance. “Connection and community is something we’re absolutely all craving. Finding a way for us to safely co-exist in performance and make an artistic offering will feed us as much as it feeds those driving by.” Read more about this event in the preview article here.
More information about the incredible roster of artists that participated in this event can be found on ADF’s website here.
THE WORLD IS OUR STAGE: SDW JOINS ADF’s 60-SECOND VIDEO DANCE CHALLENGE
SPONSORED BY THE FOREST AT DUKE
I was honored to be among the 20 NC choreographers invited to create a 60-second, socially-distancing dance video commissioned by the American Dance Festival with support from The Forest at Duke. It was such a gift to create with this team of incredibly talented humans! I’ve missed them so much. It was also a gift to experience all of the artist’s videos and to come together in community and creativity during these challenging and isolating times. For all those missing a time when we could hug, or with a first-responder family member on the front lines, we created this video is for you!
All videos were reposted together over the weekend of June 13-14 and audiences had the chance to vote for the most creative and engaging work. The three videos with the highest number of votes received awards. We were honored to place Third receiving a $250 honorarium, 10 hours of studio time, two tickets to a 2021 ADF performance and an opportunity to have our video screened during the 2021 festival.
We were absolutely honored by everyone’s support and by all of the incredible artists that came together to create and share their work! Congratulations to all!
All of the collaborators on our film collectively decided to donate our award to COVID-19 QTIPOC Survival Fund for our most vulnerable queer, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender non-conforming community members. All money goes directly to Black / Brown / Latinx / Indigenous recipients who hold many marginalized identities and are fighting to pay for basic human needs (like food + shelter) during this pandemic. For more information visit: tinyurl.com/qtipocfund
We were excited to share that our film BOUND was also selected for the JUNE 2020 FilmFest by Rogue Dancer: OUtBreaK Edition.
I am so grateful to our team of collaborators for this special project including an original score by Sand Pact, Videography by Palani Mohan, Costumes by Stephanie Sevilla, Editing and Choreography by ShaLeigh Comerford, and Performance by Jam Niel Delgado Castro, Isabelle Frame, Hannah Nicole Marr, Steven James Rodriguez Velez.
Most of our audience missed our premiere due to social distancing. So we decided to go digital! On Friday, May 15th we offered our first livestream viewing of our 2020 World Premiere of The In-Between, followed by a virtual talk back with the artists, dancers, and collaborators involved in the show. It was such a great success with 174 viewers joining us from all over the world, that we look forward to doing it again!
Click the image below to listen to our composers Kaanchee and Alex of Sand Pact speaking about our collaborative process for The In-Between in an interview on The State of Things! They join Host Frank Stasio to break down a section of the score and explain the creative process behind their soundscapes.
Featured in the score are reworked audio from a 1954 educational film, the sound of a whip crack and, naturally, some samples of Whitney Houston – Thanks to our Rosie Herrera 🌹
“Her company reminds me so much of my own.” -Rosie Herrera
In July we were honored to work with Rosie Herrera for the first time as a dramaturge and mentor. Rosie Herrera is a Cuban-American dancer and choreographer, and the artistic director of Rosie Herrera Dance Theater in Miami, FL.
In Rosie’s process, she practices a radical, empathetic, and intuitive presence with the dancers. She devises tasks that encompass their bodies, spirits, and imaginations. Her work with the company helped to break open the symbolism of our starting points and movement phrases in a way that revealed something deeper about the human condition. We found ourselves so moved and inspired by her keen ability to articulate tasks that would guide the dancers towards physical moments of surrender. Her task about this particular section called “Carried” found its way into the final work.
As a choreographer, I have always been fascinated by an image I first saw in a book when I was a young dancer of a group of people holding someone up high above their heads. To me it looked liked the epitome of what I could ever hope to give to people one day – that kind of support to literally feel lifted. This image was our starting point for this section with Rosie. What I love about “Carried,” is that it developed into a more mature kind of support. We actually physically prepare to step to the side so that the one being caught can make their own choices. We moved from holding all of someones weight, to gently being there when they lean in so we can listen to the direction they want to go. It develops a sensitivity in the dancers and requires a vulnerability to practice a sort of pause before jumping in to catch. The presence and sensitivity of the bodies remain the most potent source of information about what is happening in this section. The release of control somehow physically honors our differences. We are there now to catch each other, but not to hold.
It all started with a residency at Azule in Hot Springs, NC in January of 2019! It is located on 35 rural acres in Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a needed respite as I rode off the heels of Bamboo Wind, our ambitious 2019 premiere that commissioned 20 local artists in the fields of music, lighting design, poetry, photography, sculpture, theatre, costume design, and dance for a multi-media performance installation.
Throughout the collaborative process of Bamboo Wind, I became increasingly interested in developing a diverse counterpart to its themes and wanting to explore ideas that challenged the ways in which we all perform identity. I was interested in attempting to design a process of dis-identification and reconstructing encoded cultural messages that expose the raw materials of identities and identifications. I looked to blur the boundaries of identity between masculine and feminine in order to re-imagine and reconstruct a broader challenge to social norms. Here is a sneak peek of the movement I was researching in my very first days at the residency.
I became deeply interested in when we assert movement and when movement is asserted. I wanted to feel my own struggle as if the movement itself was more like a cultural lens.
The usefulness of the term “identity” has become more complicated for me as I struggle with the dialectic of belonging/not belonging. The nature of identification by default creates a separation between that which belongs to an identity and that which does not, and so becomes labeled as “other.” The “other,” in its many meanings and makings, has become a catalyst for me as an artist and I see it emerging in encounters across difference. Identity as a concept seems central, and at times, empowering to the human experience, as well as analogous to the necessity of archetypes in story-telling. I am interested in how these complexities and textures press on the world and against each other, and how allowing difference creates a more inclusive experience of connectivity that outweighs its division.
I have been deeply inspired by the research of Clare Croft, Esteban Munoz and Nicole Fleetwood in tandem with Albert Camus’ notion that “rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love.” Paralleled with the nature of queer theory, the productive frictions among identities of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, and diaspora, seem to present a natural neutralizer to identity. As the “queer” can only emerge among, across, and between, I am keenly curious about the bridge between identifications, and the ability of dance-theatre to address the radical act of otherness as a broader challenge to social norms.
When I returned to Durham, the Company collectively looked to a more expansive projection of self to discover what truly creates a bridge from one person to another and to simultaneously uncover how the symbolic implications could potentially respond to the separation and divide we feel from the identity politics in our world today.
Our work was enhanced and deepened by our time with Rosie Herrera, Artistic Director of Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre, through a two-week residency. Rosie provided a new and needed platform that nurtured us to dive deeper into our process and expand our creative capacity.
It is a rare opportunity to be encouraged as artists to challenge ourselves with in-depth approaches and to challenge our audiences with new ideas and methodologies. Through this work we share our personal identity stories, pleasures, and challenges. We move between multiple, layered identities. We wear masks and understand that it could be nothing and everything. We know that the masks could be both given to us and claimed by us. But we also know that what’s underneath is what we all share.
Producer Jodi Kaplan’s Booking Dance Festival NYC is an annual dance extravaganza held during New York City’s APAP conference. Built with the artist in mind, the showcase offered us an opportunity to connect with an audience of renowned presenters. Held at the breathtaking Jazz at Lincoln Center, the magnificent venue featured 4,500 square feet of glass overlooking Central Park, the perfect backdrop for a magical evening of dance showcasing at the Asccoiation of Performing Artists Professionals conference. We were honored to showcase with them again this year!
“I love this work! The build-up of tension is breathtaking!” – Jodi Kaplan, Booking Dance
We were lucky enough to catch up with NYC based photographer Ashe the morning after our show for a quick photo shoot in the financial district.
And here are a few sneak peaks Ashe captured from our final rehearsal before the showcase! The newbie is our driver/assistant extraordinaire, also known as my amazing brother!
From all of us at ShaLeigh Dance Works, thank you to all who joined us, volunteered, performed, donated, and supported us! We are so excited to share that our 3rd annual Revolutionaries in the Dark gala was our best attended Gala to date! Held at the prestigious Rickhouse, a retired prizery, this historic space transformed into an urban botanica thanks to the incredible decorations by Shannon Fairbanks and Paperhand Puppet Intervention. This special edition of the gala was themed Secret Garden – defined as new beginnings and growing to be seen – and we did just that!
Our one-of-a-kind annual fundraiser reflects the inclusive and innovative spirit that defines ShaLeigh Dance Works, and our success is driven by the dynamic arts community we serve. Our secret Guest Speaker, Davian Robinson, offered a fearless, shining example of why we do what we do!
Davian Robinson, originally from Hickory, NC, is a student, public speaker, and Paralympic athlete. Currently living in Charlotte, NC, he is completing his final year at UNC Charlotte earning degrees in Dance and Exercise Science. Davian lost his sight as a child and is breaking ground in innovative dance practices for people with low vision. Davian first met ShaLeigh Dance Works through Arts Access, a non-profit organization based in Raleigh that is dedicated to keeping the arts accessible to individuals with disabilities.
We were very proud to present our collaboration entitled enVISION, the finale of a three section work commissioned by Arts Access. The work intertwined the dance experiences of two individuals with mixed-abilities and the future of adaptive dance. The performance, like Davian’s unforgettable speech, reveals that through collaboration and imagination, anything is possible.
All proceeds for our Annual Campaign support the future of ShaLeigh Dance Works and our mission to create socially conscious dance-theatre work, expand the reach of our healing movement language, and offer engagement programs with a positive impact on the lives of others.
We were honored to present an incredible roster of artists for this unforgettable evening including World Record Juggler and Drag Queen Jude LeQueen and our beloved Poetry Fox creating handmade poems.
Culinary Alchemist Syrus Lune and Internationally acclaimed Pianist and Composer Alejandro Santoyo shared their talents in our main stage show. We were also honored to present chalk artist Margaret Sue Turner Wright, tarot reader Adam Gori, and DJ LonelyGirl who rocked our epic Dance Party all the way through clean up!
ShaLeigh Dance Works shared four exciting dances including a humorous and at times, disturbing, series of solos entitled All of Shals; a new staging of Derivations based on the postmodern masterpiece Rosas danst Rosas; a sneak peek of our upcoming world premiere The In-Between.
Since 2017, we have held an annual Revolutionaries in the Dark Gala. The name comes from the desire to create a platform for artists creating socially engaged work. We want to create a platform that celebrates artists that are literally shining a light in dark places by challenging many of society’s deepest assumptions. We see our work as a cultural tool that helps to expose and humanize the emotions we feel. We are deeply inspired by those providing a voice for others who may not have another way to be heard. This work calls us to action and we want to continue to participate in these shared efforts for deep and lasting social change. Our company’s mission is to create socially conscious dance-theatre, expand the reach of our healing movement language, and offer engagement programs with positive impact on the lives of others. Our growing outreach initiatives continue to provide platforms that support other artists and organizations with similar mission driven work.
We see our Gala as something that not only supports us and the work we do, but we are actively seeking to change the way artists are valued. We see this as a part of a much bigger conversation. And just as we want to create a platform for other artists shining a light in the dark and working to create change, we want to shine our light on them as well! We hope the Gala will continue to grow each year and become an event that deeply inspires us all.
With an uncompromising focus on artistic excellence, nurturing artists, and designing programs to empower at-risk communities, we aim to provide a concrete example of how dance can transform people’s lives and enrich society.
From all of us at ShaLeigh Dance Works, we would like to say a special thank you to our company manager, Kayla Oelhafen; our decorations manager, Shannon Fairbanks; our marketing manager, Abby Bradetich; and our sponsorship manager, Joni Favley. Without your tireless dedication and support, none of this would have been possible.
Our 3rd annual gala, Revolutionaries in the Dark, is coming up this Sunday, October 13th, at The Rickhouse! We are excited to present our Featured Artists for this special edition of the gala, themed Secret Garden – defined as new beginnings and growing to be seen. The elegant extravaganza will include wine tastings, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, a secret guest speaker, performances by ShaLeigh Dance Works, and an incredible line up of Artists!
In a recent interview with Triangle Arts Review, ShaLeigh explained why featuring these artists are such an important vision for the Gala: “We call the Gala Revolutionaries in the Dark to keep powerful art experiences at the center of a broader conversation about cultural values and the intellectual, aesthetic, and social purpose of making art. Our annual platform is also intended to celebrate other artists that are literally shining a light in dark places by challenging many of society’s deepest assumptions. This work calls us to action, and we want to continue to participate in these shared efforts for deep and lasting social change. Our annual fundraising campaign gives us the opportunity to make a statement of advocacy for the arts that is deeply meaningful to why we create the work we do from our productions to our movement language and our engagement programs.”
We are so excited to have World Record Juggler and Drag Queen Jude LeQueen join us for our gala! Don’t miss your chance to see this amazing human perform! Jude says, “SDW’s mission to promote inclusion in the arts is something I value as a performer. It’s always great to see supportive spaces being created, ultimately allowing for creative growth.”
Jude LeQueen is a world record holding juggler, drag queen, and visual artist based in Apex, NC. Through dramatic performances that mix avant-garde circus with theatre, LeQueen creates an immersive experience that is at the forefront of modern circus arts. Jude LeQueen learned how to juggle at the age of six, and has never lost the passion for performing. In 2017 and 2018, LeQueen competed in the finals of the International Jugglers’ Association Stage Championships. From 2017-2019 LeQueen has also broken over 20 juggling world records, and continues to push the boundaries of the art form. Currently majoring in graphic design at UNCG, he seeks to combine elements of visual language into performance. Using design and aesthetic to create a futuristic take on a classic circus style.
We are thrilled to have the one and only Poetry Fox join us at our gala again this year! Don’t miss your chance to get a personally written poem by Chris Vitiello! Chris says, “ShaLeigh and her company aren’t just remarkable performers; they’re remarkable people. Whether I’m collaborating with the company in rehearsals or just going to one of their performances as an audience member, I know I’m coming away from the experience with something positive and meaningful.”
Chris Vitiello is a writer, performer, and arts organizer. As the Poetry Fox, he writes poems on-demand on vintage typewriters at all manner of events. His poetry books include Obedience (Ahsahta, 2012) and Irresponsibility (Ahsahta, 2008).
We are so excited to have Culinary Alchemist Syrus Lune joining us! He is a performance artist that creates an artwork out of food that is both edible and beautiful. The piece of art he creates onstage at the gala will be available for purchase! Syrus says, “I’m supporting this event because of the theme for the show. New beginnings for Syrus as I transition into making my dream a reality.”
Syrus is a culinary alchemist. He began cooking around the age of 6 alongside his grandmother. They spent time together writing menus and developing recipes. The first time he stepped in the kitchen she explained the importance of being able to cook for himself. Fourteen years later, Syrus graduated from Johnson and Wales, hungry for new experiences. Now he has over 10 years of restaurant experience to use as he grows as an artist. His intentions are to push the boundaries of food service while displaying his emotional connection with the process of cooking. His passion is to create a unique experience for you to try a dish and also leave feeling spiritually full.
We are so happy to have DJ LonelyGirl joining us this year! Although rather new to the DJ scene, Lizzie (DJ LonelyGirl) is no stranger to the Triangle area. Currently based in Durham, NC, her love and affinity for music has been lifelong. “After studying theory and learning multiple musical instruments, becoming a DJ seemed like the next step in my relationship with music,” she says. Her mantra has always been: no matter what life throws at you, music will always be there to lift you up. She is excited to support ShaLeigh Dance Works, as she believes they share a common goal. “Like myself, the company also incorporates music to invoke emotional release, through dance. Any expressionism involving music is ethereal, universal, and makes the world a better place.” DJ LonelyGirl has performed at The Pinhook, The Fruit, Ruby Deluxe, Arcana, The Bar, and Imurj. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy DJ LonelyGirl’s music and join SDW for the closing dance party!
We are so fortunate to have a special guest artist join us at the gala on Sunday. ShaLeigh’s mom, Margaret Sue Turner Wright, will be drawing live during the event! Margaret says, “ShaLeigh has always had an enriching effect on me and on others. Her dance of life, is to behold the deeper wisdom that lives within each of us, and heals us. Nowhere else have I ever seen, the Dance of Life to come onto the center stage of life for others to know and feel that inner dance, that inner power and deep inspiration, as thru what ShaLeigh has shared and gifted to the community of these kindred dancing spirits. I support ShaLeigh as my beloved daughter, and I support her sacred work, in this Sacred journey, the Dance of Life for self and for others. I choose to document her Dance Works thru my own inner dance with paint and brush.”
More about Margaret: Margaret, Manager of Gallery 202 for 6 years, is a plein air artist and figure painter, a full time working artist and teacher, and has had her artwork featured on book covers, program covers and been commissioned for corporate marketing materials. She has exhibited at the Orange County Historical Museum and the Virginia Museum of Transportation and has a painting in the permanent collection of the Wood Brothers Museum. She is a member of the Copyist Program at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, completed Solo Exhibitions and been a featured artist for local and regional galleries. Margaret Sue is founder of regional, Lonely Arts Club Plein Air Painters, and Group 202 Figure Painters, and Co founder of Plein Air Roanoke. Her representational impressionist style of art has also been referred to as enthusiastic, bold and passionate. In 2017 and in 2018, Margaret Sue was honored to receive a nomination each year, for the Perry F. Kendig Award, sponsored by Roanoke College and Hollins University.
We are excited to have Adam Gori offering Tarot Readings for our guests. When asked about himself, Adam says, “Let’s see what the cards have to say instead: The Wheel never stops. We’re all on it, being spun ever forward. We can also see the Wheel as a representation of the cards shuffling. It’s the same thing — our lives spinning and flickering, the cards shuffling. Until we take a moment to look. We draw one card from the shuffle, one moment from the constant spinning. Then another in this case. And another. After the Wheel, we get two cards of communication. In Judgment, a call comes from above, focused downward. In The Moon, a response comes from below, focused upward. It’s a call and response. The shuffle is interrupted. A call is made, and a response returns the call to its own source. A question and an answer. That’s what we do. It’s that simple. Don’t ask me how it works. Who knows?
Adam says, “ShaLeigh gives to our community with an open heart and mind. Her courageous dancers allow us to see that heart and mind moving before us. We are so lucky to have a choreographer like ShaLeigh in our community, who seeks ways of moving in the world that are surprising and somehow mending as well as cognizant of the ways in which movement connects us all to ourselves and to one another.”
And now … about our “secret speaker” who is prompting a lot of buzz! While we cant give it away, we asked ShaLeigh if she could give us a hint, she says “If I could describe our speaker in one word, it would be ‘fearless.'”
A few other things she let us know were that the speaker is “contagiously inspiring, an innovator, and a pioneer in new inclusive movement methodologies.” She also explained that the speaker recently served as a presenter at the Alexander Technique National Conference at Columbia University in New York City and said that “I have no doubt he will leave his mark on the world of dance and certainly will move everyone who hears him speak.”
We truly believe that we are in deep need of work that affirms and promotes a sense of community, empathy, and connection; work that restores us, reminds us that we’re human, and connects us to one another again. We believe that by investing in our efforts, we can discover new possibilities and can begin to engage in a different dialogue about what it means to be an artist, how valuable it is, how we can affect change, and how we can contribute to our universal human experience. I am keeping faith that individuals who are able to join us in this endeavor will do so.
Our annual fundraising campaign sustains these efforts and by making a commitment to contribute, you are making a powerful statement of advocacy for the arts that is deeply meaningful in today’s world.
Your support directly impacts the power of bringing the arts to the lives of others and sustains our artists, staff members, and programs. Here’s how:
Performing Artists – Your donation will help us value and nurture our artists with rehearsal wages, physical therapy, and wellness programs for our 8 Performing Artists.
Engagement Programs – Your donation will allow us to expand the reach of our community engagement programs for special populations and audiences.
Programming Support – Your donation will enable us to expand our artistic vision with greater access to costuming, props, lighting, set design, sound design, lighting design, administrative fees, touring, marketing & promotional materials.
Staff Support – Your donation will sustain our behind-the-scenes efforts with wages for our growing team of collaborators.
A dynamic cultural sector is a catalyst for growth, attracting and retaining businesses and visitors. By supporting ShaLeigh Dance Works’ programming, you are supporting opportunities with meaningful and sustainable impact for both individuals and communities!
After three years of providing performances for the infamous and loved Reality Ministries Talent Show, we enjoyed offering community members two, week-long residencies of movement classes as a part of Summerfest. The four-day Summer Day Camps were open to anyone involved with Reality during the year and provided people of all abilities memorable, un-rushed, communal experiences. We were excited to offer ShaGA specially designed with diverse abilities and needs in mind.
ShaGa is a somatic movement practice that has developed over the course of 15 years. It is a synthesis of ShaLeigh Comerford’s lifelong movement research that first began with the discovery of Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing and her passion to create healing movement programs for special populations. Her thesis entitled The Power of Identity through Movement created embodiment curricula for individuals with physical disabilities, mental illness, and survivors of trauma. In collaboration with SDW Company dancers, we have designed programming that is accessible and experiential for individuals of all abilities. Using evocative ideas and imagery rooted in creative, somatic movement games, our program provides an improvisational playground that connects the body and the imagination.
After a successful first offering of this new program, ShaLeigh Dance Works and the Reality Center are excited to announce their new partnership that will provide two weekly movement classes for teens and adults with developmental disabilities as a part of their Day Program this year!
ShaLeigh founded the first Mixed-ability dance program in her home town of Roanoke, VA in collaboration with The Roanoke Ballet Theatre in 2003 and decided to launch it again at The Durham Arts Council in 2004 after identifying the need for accessible dance programs. Her engagement work has continued to offer multiple performance opportunities each year that bring mixed-ability movers to professional stages in the Triangle. This summer, she was an invited speaker for a panel discussion with Axis Dance Company and Arts Access on making dance inclusive and welcoming to people with disabilities.
ABOUT:The Reality Center is a community-based non-profit that offers a variety of opportunities for participants to work, play, learn, and grow together. Our mission is to create opportunities for teens and adults with and without developmental disabilities to experience belonging and kinship. The Reality Center is a place with no margins where everyone is accepted, valued, and celebrated.