This week NC Dance Festival director Anne Morris speaks with ShaLeigh Comerford, founder, and director of ShaLeigh Dance Works, and Jodee Nimerichter, Executive Director of the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Durham, NC. An annual festival bringing students and dance companies from across the US and internationally, the American Dance Festival plays a particular role in providing opportunities for students and audiences to experience the breadth and depth of modern dance. In this conversation, Jodee and ShaLeigh talk about how much can be learned by driving a bus, the kinds of education many artists are missing, and the importance of building and drawing on artistic networks.
ShaLeigh Dance Works was honored to present two new ADF commissioned works at Durham’s Mystic Farm & Distillery along with Nia Sadler, Gaspard&Dancers, and Soul Struck leading up to the world premiere of tHe aGe oF aNXiety by dendy/donovan projects!
As a part of ADF’s first in-person event, SDW was honored to be commissioned to create two new site-specific works. Created specifically for this occasion and this site, the opening movement installation was entitled Moving, Still and was inspired by the idea of how we are all transitioning together in this time of COVID and the layers of effort and resilience that we have all had to discover.
In an interview with Ray Elliot for the Local Reporter, ShaLeigh said “Much of my work is usually dark and emotional. And it has these points of inquiry that dig deeply into my own personal curiosities. But for this, it was just, wow, we are together again. I just want to celebrate that. I just want this to feel like a gift to the audience.”
The second movement Meadow Dance was created for 5 dancers and designed to visually interact with the incredible music score created by Mike Wall. It was incredible to design choreography that could partner the incredible landscape and expanse of the sky. The choreography featured the trajectory of movement and energy to highlight the very essence of the dancers in motion with the expanse of the open field.
We were so grateful to Marie Muir at Durham Magazine for this incredible coverage! “ShaLeigh Dance Works’ company moved with precision across a meadow stage at Mystic Farm & Distillery, captivating the crowd.”
Last but not least, we were honored to be recognized by Chatham Life and Style in the outstanding choreography category for our piece Meadow Dance as a part of their Best of 2021 list! We are so grateful to The American Dance Festival for the opportunity and to all of our amazing performers!
This past December, we were so excited to share a glimpse into our creative process for enVISION: Sensory Beyond Sight at this Holiday Charity event to benefit the students at Governor Morehead School for the Blind.
It was a special evening of all of us and most especially enVISION’s co-director Davian Robinson. He attended Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, NC from 2004 – 2011. It was there that he first found his love and passion for dance.
We are grateful to Carolyn Marshall Covington at InSightful Visionaries for the opportunity to share our work!
enVISION: Sensory Beyond Sight is supported by MAP Fund, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Durham Arts Council’s Annual Arts Fund and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. www.NCArts.org
We’re looking for enthusiastic low-vision and blind dance and theatre lovers to help us spread the love of inclusive performances. ShaLeigh Dance Works is developing an immersive dance-theatre performance that does not require the viewer’s sight, but rather all their other senses. We are seeking low-vision and blind participants who would be interested in joining our creative process this February and March 2022. No dance experience is necessary and all levels of abilities are welcome. This project is led by Artistic Director ShaLeigh Comerford in collaboration with Co-Director Davian Robinson, a low vision dancer and choreographer.
To get involved, send us a message here: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you know anyone that could be interested, please feel free to share!
We are grateful to our invaluable community partners Arts Access, Vision InSights, Dark Room Ballet, InSightful Visionaries, The American Dance Festival, and The Fruit.
This project is supported by MAP Fund, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Durham Arts Council’s Annual Arts Fund and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. www.NCArts.org
A Thousand Ways to Say Hello is a poetic virtual performance that is devoted to exploring the boundaries of connection within a virtual space. In a time when we must be distant, we are asking ourselves, how can we assemble, share weight, share power, and care for our bodies and each other in these times? How do we reorient ourselves within a virtual space and a chaotic world? We want to explore the line between distance and proximity, and how the most intimate moments can arise from finding new ways of making contact and showing up.
The work was filmed entirely on phone cameras in two locations—Durham, NC and San Juan, PR. It blends movement generated by each of the artists with original sound scores by Mike Wall.
This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and Durham Arts Council, local grants administrator.
As a response to the current pandemic, we launched a series of Digital Residencies for our artists! The Digital Residency was a week-long platform to uplift the amazing artistry of each one of our talented company members. These dynamic artists shared their work over a six week span on our Instagram feed. We were thrilled to introduce a deeper look into these incredible artists who are a part of the heartbeat of ShaLeigh Dance Works.
SDW was a proud sponsor of Christmas Without Lights!
Christmas for the Blind / visually impaired is a unique personal experience. Through the Spirit of Collaboration with other non-profits and local organizations, the event represents a cooperative effort to share the spirit of Christmas by giving back to the blind / visually impaired community.
We are so excited that “Memos for Migration” will be printed in An Ecotone Almanac. We can’t wait to share finished copies with you!
In “Memos for Migration,” choreographer ShaLeigh Comerford offers us new tools for moving and thinking, with a score based in the ShaGa movement practice. We recommend trying these instructions from any comfortable spot—a chair or the floor, lying on the grass and looking at the sky or lying in bed.
Invite the sensation of weightless amusement. Cherish without loss. Elevate to fortify the strength of your form. Feel your senses growing astute and agile.
Find the full score at Ecotone Magazine – We hope it offers a grounding experience of lightness in these challenging times of heaviness and offer our deep gratitude to Ecotone for this invitation to share our first published ShaGa score.
In partial response to the challenge from the black lives matter (blm) movement to all segments of society that they address the issue of racial and social injustice in a meaningful way, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute sponsored a series of zoom training webinars. SDW was honored to join this program with other organizational leaders to examine racism and its many forms, and the actions that we can take to address racism within our organizations and communities of service.
ShaLeigh Dance Works denounces white supremacy, racism, and racial violence. We will continue to stand with those working to dismantle all forms of oppression and intentionally invest time, resources, and energy into building a reality founded on cultural equity and justice for all.
Thank You Donors!
During this time of great uncertainty we’ve been comforted, encouraged, and humbled by the outpouring of generosity and support from our community. Remarkable people, organizations, community groups, and small businesses have all stepped up to support us.
We would also like to thank the Durham Arts Council, North Carolina Arts Council, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, MAP Fund, Westgate Wine, VAE Artist Relief, North Star Church, and Foundation for the Carolinas.
To us, YOU are our heroes and we Thank You for helping us meet the challenges of this moment.
We were honored to be one of 12 North Carolina artists selected by American Dance Festival to perform in front of several installations of this outdoor exhibition created by artist Carrie Mae Weems. This project is the Nasher Museum’s eighth collaboration with ADF.
The Nasher Museum of Art collaborated with Duke Arts and Duke Health to present this unprecedented outdoor exhibition. The project emphasizes the disproportionate impact of the deadly virus on the lives of communities of color, through large-scale banners and window clings, posters, street signs, and more.
“I have long admired Carrie Mae Weems. Her work insists that we not simply look but really see, human to human. Her work asks us to see a piece of the world that is uniquely personal and yet participates in a larger cultural conversation. I was really drawn to the hope and humanity of this project, and the seemingly-effortless images that reveal the complexities of representation and the power of demanding to be seen. To me, the size and scale of the project asked for reverence – and that is exactly how we wanted to respond performatively to the seriousness of its message, with reverence and honor.”
“I began by asking myself what structures of power did we want to make visible? What social dynamics did we want to tackle? And how did I want to intertwine my admiration for this artist’s body of work into my approach? I knew we would dress in all black as an ode to her series Roaming and Museums where she stands in a long black dress with her back to the camera. In both series, she uses her body to stand in for the masses while it points at architecture as a ruling “edifice of power.” I also knew I wanted to begin by simply composing an image that would emulate a photograph as a way to be in dialogue with her art form. I was also interested in exploring domestic, reclined poses as a nod to her iconic Kitchen Table series.”
“I then wanted to create an interplay between stillness and motion, sanctuary and battleground, lethargy and action. We ultimately wanted to be in dialogue with her message while honoring those that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. Collectively we are a diverse company composed of Latino, Native American, European, and Filipino-American. We wanted to feel that we could turn and face this together. I have a deep belief in the power of awareness as the first step in creating change. I consider our work to be a deep bow to the power of this artist, her work, and message.”
— ShaLeigh Comerford, Founder, Artistic Director, ShaLeigh Dance Works, on performing original choreography in response to RESIST COVID / TAKE 6! at the Durham Station.
Argyle Rebel Films releases their latest series and podcast, A (DOT) Rebel. Host Michael Washington sat down on a chilly December afternoon with ShaLeigh to discuss collaboration, research, fighting for fair wages for artist, leadership, and never giving up on your art.
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.