Rolling Out

Vershawn Sanders-Ward of Red Clay Dance Company loves the artform

Vershawn Sanders-Ward of Red Clay Dance Company loves the artform
Photo courtesy of Red Clay Dance Company/Vershawn Sanders-Ward

From a very young age of 5 years old, Vershawn Sanders-Ward has professed her love for the art of dance. Sanders-Ward has been able to cultivate her passion for dance by creating Red Clay Dance Company. As the founding artistic director and CEO of Red Clay Dance Company, Sanders-Ward has elevated her choreography by leaps and bounds. It has since been presented in Chicago; New York; San Francisco; The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts; and internationally in Dakar, Senegal; Kampala, Uganda; and Toronto.

Rolling out had an opportunity to speak with Vershawn Sanders-Ward about Red Clay Dance Company’s recent success.

Who inspired you to pursue the arts?
I was actually inspired by the dancers I would see on award shows. At first I thought I wanted to do commercial dance, but seeing a performance by the Alvin Ailey [American Dance Theater] company opened my eyes to concert dance and that is what I create for now.

What was your first creative position?
My first creative position was as an assistant choreographer for a production in Chicago called “Moving by His Power.” I was assisting the great Najwa, founder of Najwa Dance Corps.

What did you learn that you apply today to your professional creative practice?
I learned to always be prepared and flexible.

What is Red Clay Dance and what is the mission?
Red Clay Dance is an Afro-contemporary dance organization based in Chicago. We house a touring company, a training academy, and community partnership programs for schools and youth centers. Red Clay Dance Company lives to awaken “global” change through creating, performing, and teaching dances of the African Diaspora — a change that transforms cultural and socioeconomic inequities in our local and global community.

How would you define the term “culture creator?” Do you consider yourself one?
I think that all Black people are culture creators and yes I do consider myself one.

What are three of the best things about being creative?
The freedom to express and share your thoughts and ideas with the world, and the energy exchange with the audience when you are on the stage. There is nothing like that feeling.

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