What We Do

ShaLeigh Dance Works believes in the power of diversity and shared humanity. Our mission is to create dance-theatre work and engagement programs that center social justice and create a positive impact on the lives of others. We believe that what we do in the studio can positively affect the world outside. With an uncompromising focus on artistic excellence, nurturing artists, and designing programs to empower communities impacted by marginalization, we aim 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. From proscenium to public skate parks, and galleries to historic resorts, we offer year round performances and annually self-produced shows. In our inaugural year alone, we produced 22 performances, 4 touring productions, and 3 world premieres. From inspiration to world premiere, SDW annually commissions artists to create new work. Since 2015 we have commissioned 11 composers, and contracted over 140 artists and collaborators from dancers and artistic consultants to photographers, filmmakers, and costume, set, lighting and sound designers. Discounted tickets are available to all self-produced performances for individuals who identify as queer, transgender, non-binary and/or intersex, Black, Indigenous, and other LGBTQI+ people of color (QTIBIPOC) as well as individuals who live with disabilities or financial hardships. No one is turned away for lack of funds.


Each year, renowned and emerging choreographers are invited to participate in a democratic creative process and development of new, experimental works-in-progress through a two-week residency. The creative residency aims to develop and nourish the artistic growth of our company dancers through mentoring opportunities while also offering opportunities to community dancers through open workshops. This opportunity encourages dancers in their own personal growth and advancement, while also allowing Resident Artists the opportunity to deepen their curiosities and refine their research. Rosie Herrera, our 2019 Resident Artist, marked our inaugural program.


Over the course of 17 years, ShaLeigh Comerford developed a living movement language that first began with the discovery of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing and took shape through her passion to create healing movement programs. These classes were first available to the community in 2014 and took form as ShaGa. ShaGa is a movement practice of self-discovery, healing, and awakening to our deeper resources. Since launching the company full-time in 2015, ShaLeigh continues to channel her lifelong research into an living movement practice that serves as the company’s weekly movement training.  This past year, 3 artists were selected to attend our first ShaGa Teacher Training Program, augmenting our movement language and training the next generation of ShaGa Teachers to expand our reach.


Our donation-only Community Classes were first available to the public in 2014 and are offered to people of all ages and abilities. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds. These classes offer ShaGa as a way to provide connection and community through movement in an open and welcoming atmosphere. Throughout the pandemic, we continued offering our Community classes via Zoom and offered over 200 well-attended, donation-only classes.


Each year, ShaLeigh Dance Works creates programs designed to empower and uplift individuals of all abilities. The 2018-2019 season offered multiple performances bringing mixed-ability movers to professional stages and panel discussions on making dance inclusive and welcoming to people of all abilities. SDW aims to increase its number of engagement programs by building new relationships with people and organizations around the country that align with their goals and mission. Our 2019-2020 season forged a new partnership with The Reality Center to provide weekly movement classes for teens and adults with developmental disabilities as a part of their Day Program.


Our community enrichment initiative to launch an Apprenticeship Program has officially opened to the public and provides an intimate group of community dancers with 6 weeks of professional training opportunities in ShaGa and artistic development through performance. The program is for aspiring professionals who have significant interest in ShaGa and the Company’s Mission to create work and engagement programs as advocates for social change. The study is done in an intimate group of no more than 4 apprentices, enabling personal dialogue and direction by ShaLeigh Comerford. The programs flexible schedule allows for students to continue their daily lives and offers a reasonable commitment of 3 – 8 hours a week. Scholarships are available to individuals who identify as queer, transgender, non-binary and/or intersex, Black, Indigenous, and other LGBTQI+ people of color (QTIBIPOC) as well as individuals who live with disabilities or financial hardships.