Founded July 23, 2008 in Brooklyn, NY and now based in Chicago, Illinois Red Clay Dance is a professional touring company that creates and performs a diverse repertoire of Afro-contemporary dance, a fusion of West African movement vocabulary with contemporary and Chicago House dance styles.

Red Clay Dance is a trendsetter for uniting elite professional dance creation and performance with a social consciousness that spills from the stage into the community.  Red Clay possess a unique ability to offer authentic engagement for dance through creating and performing work within marginalized communities.  The company embraces cross-cultural collaborations and has a clear vision to strengthen their local community through collaborative projects between African and Afro-Diaspora artists.

The company’s work has appeared in arts festivals around the world including:

  • Painted Bride (2017)
  • Push Fest (2016)
  • Rad Fest (2012)
  • Dance Transmissions Festival/Uganda (2010)
  • A.W.A.R.D.S SHOW/Joyce Soho NYC (2009)
  • The Yard/Martha’s Vineyard (2007)

Red Clay Dance

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Now Touring

Art of Resilience

Choreographer: Vershawn Sanders Ward

Length: 19 minutes

The first in a trilogy of ensemble works exploring the theme of embodied resilience that lives inside of historically disenfranchised communities. Set beneath the famed elevated tracks of Chicago’s South and West Sides. The dancers personify the “fly” and “fresh” found in the inhabitants, past and present, of these communities, while demystifying and dismantling the narrative of violence that the media continues to perpetuate as the only narrative found on these blocks. From South Side’s Stoney Island to West’s Sides Madison St., this work is a claiming and re-telling of our stories on our own terms. Projections of the South Side’s famed mural, The Wall of Respect, give texture to the space in tandem with images captured by photographer Cecil McDonald.


Choreographer: Vershawn Sanders Ward

Length: 11 minutes

Why you wanna fly blackbird? You ain’t ever gonna fly. This poignant work for solo dancer draws inspiration from one of Nina Simone’s most haunting songs, a metaphor of blackbird and black woman that illustrates the seemingly hopeless struggle to positively define one’s self in the face of society’s contempt. In Blackbird, the commodification of blackness adds a contemporary layer of pain and outrage to the narrative.

Body of Evidence

Choreographer: Bridget Moore

Length: 11 minutes

Body of Evidence, created for 6 dancers, through potent and evocative movement, this work delves into themes conceptualizing womanhood. These themes reveal characteristics of power, strength, support, and nurturing, each element underscoring empowerment.

Written on the Flesh

Choreographer: Vershawn Sanders Ward

Length: 55 minutes

Written on The Flesh, created for 8 dancers, is a highly-charged dance work that tackles the question, “what is the residue of elegant racism and how is it written on the flesh?” The work explores themes of identity, systematic racial inequity, and the history of mass violence perpetuated against black bodies in this country. Will there be a society where true equity exists for all Americans?


Choreographer: Vershawn Sanders Ward

Length: 20 minutes

Sanders-Ward’s riveting new solo work, #SAYHERNAME examines the criminalization of female black activists Angela Davis and Assata Shakur, drawing parallels to the present-day arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland. The solo dancer finds herself in a confined space; both physically (inside a prison cell) and mentally, bound by her condition and perceived loss of POWER.


Choreographer: Amansu Eason

Length: 14 minutes

DevelopMino is a section from a full-length ballet that is in progress. It is a story about three women that were recruited to join the all-female military unit of Mino warriors from the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. Highly-skilled and courageous, these elite warriors fought for nearly two centuries under the motto ‘Conquer or Die.’ This work reveals the heroic story and rigorous training of the Mino, arguably Dahomey’s most impressive legacy.

Artist's Calendar

Venue / Time
“APAP 2018 Showcase”
NY City Center Studio 4
130 W. 56th Street

New York, NY 10019
9:10 am


Vershawn Sanders-Ward is a movement artivist and the Founding Artistic Director of Red Clay Dance Company based in Chicago, IL.  A native of Chicago, Sanders-Ward holds a MFA in Dance from New York University and a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has been presented in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia San Francisco, Kalamazoo, Providence, Toronto, Senegal, Kampala, Uganda and The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard.  She is a 2013 3Arts awardee and recipient of a 2009 Choreography Award from Harlem Stage NYC. Vershawn has served as an adjunct faculty member and facilitated residencies at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, Knox College, AS220, and Kampala National Theatre.  She has created works for Signature Dance Company, Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University and Knox College dance programs.  In 2015, NewCity Magazine selected Ward as one of the “Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago”. In Fall 2017, Sanders-Ward and Red Clay Dance will embark on a 2-year cultural exchange and creative collaboration entitled the “TransAtlantic Project” with choreographer Jonas Byaruhanga and Keiga Dance Company from Kampala, Uganda. This project is made possible from the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund.