Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago Alums Celebrate ‘The Art of Resilience’ in Red Clay Dance Concerts June 3-4


Red Clay Dance, an all-female ensemble founded and led by Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago alum Vershawn Sanders-Ward ’02, presents its spring concert, “The Art of Resilience,” on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. The program features the world premieres of two new works choreographed by Sanders-Ward, The Art of Resilience and Blackbird, along with three repertory favorites, Diamond in the RUF, Body of Evidence, and DevelopMino. The concert on Saturday night will be followed by Red Clay Dance’s annual “Paint the Town Red” fundraiser party.

“The Art of Resilience” is devoted to complex and intersecting narratives connected to identity. Themes of resistance, community, power and fortitude, womanhood, and the right to self-determination are given narrative in five complementary works infused with Red Clay’s signature Afro-contemporary style. Performances are Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3:30 PM at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, located at 915 E. 60th St. in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Ticket prices range from $15 (student/senior/child) to $55 (VIP concert seating and “Paint the Town Red” party). For tickets, call 773-624-8411 or click here.

Vershawn Sanders-Ward

Vershawn Sanders-Ward, founder and executive artistic director of Red Clay Dance, is a graduate of the Dance Center of Columbia College’s BFA Program in Dance. She also holds an MFA in Dance from New York University.

Destine Young

Sara Ziglar

The Red Clay Dance ensemble includes Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago alums Destine Young ’13 and Sara Ziglar ’10.

The world premiere pieces The Art of Resilience: Stoney Island to Madison St. and Blackbird are both choreographed by Vershawn Sanders-Ward. The Art of Resilience: Stoney Island to Madison St. is the first in a trilogy of ensemble works exploring the theme of embodied resilience that lives inside of historically disenfranchised communities. The piece employs projected images by photographer Cecil McDonald, a teacher in the Columbia College Chicago Photography Department. Blackbird is a poignant work for solo dancer set to Nina Simone’s haunting song “Blackbird” to illustrate 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.

The repertory piece Diamond in the RUF, also choreographed by Sanders-Ward, is set in the 1990s. It immerses the audience in the lives of Sierra Leone’s diamond miners and members of its rebel army, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). This work illuminates how the persistent psychological bondage imposed by colonialism, in the form of internalized racism and self-hatred, combines with greed to tear apart a community from the inside out. The work is inspired by events that occurred during the diamond mining scandal and civil war in Sierra Leone as told by writer Greg Campbell in his book, Blood Diamonds.

Destine Young in “DevelopMino.” (Photo: Don Albonico)

Destine Young in “DevelopMino.” (Photo: Don Albonico)

Also on the program are two repertory pieces by other choreographers. Bridget L. Moore’s Body of Evidence delves into themes conceptualizing womanhood to reveal characteristics of power, strength, support, and nurturing, each element underscoring empowerment. Amansu Eason’s DevelopMino celebrates the Mino, an all-female elite military unit of the West African kingdom of Dahomey, who fought for nearly two centuries under the motto “Conquer or Die.”

Founded in 2008, Red Clay Dance is a professional touring company that creates and performs a diverse repertoire of Afro-contemporary dance which fuses traditional West African movement with contemporary dance forms. The company, which is in residence at Fuller Park on Chicago’s South Side, seeks to awaken “glocal” change that transforms cultural and socio-economic imbalances in our local and global community through collaborative projects between African and Afro-Diaspora artists.


Destine Young (Photo: Raymond Jerome Photography)