Celebrating a Legacy of ‘Artivism’ through creating, performing and teaching dances of the African Diaspora
On August 3, The Red Clay Dance Company kicked off the beginning of its 15th anniversary season by hosting the “Paint The Town Red” fundraiser Soiree! This annual end-of-summer soiree celebrated Red Clay Dance Company’s 15FORWARD Season.
The event was held at the Ivy Room and presented the Social Justice Artist and Community Activist Tonika Johnson Lewis with the 2023 Culture Creator Award.
The event featured an exclusive VIP pre-reception, live dance and music performances, signature cocktails, and exquisite bites guided by the hypnotic sound rotation of DJ Duane Powell.
Located in the Woodlawn community, Red Clay Dance Company is Chicago’s premier professional Afro-contemporary dance company which tours nationally and internationally, sharing their stories and “Artivism” (art + activism). In its 15-year history, Red Clay Dance has created and produced award-winning original works that have appeared around the World and have become the home for professional and pre-professional dancers, dance lovers and other artists to convene, create and collaborate.
The organization houses The Red Clay School of Dance and The Red Clay Dance Youth Ensemble, which serve as a pipeline for youth in Chicago communities to become thriving professional artists by providing creative and safe spaces of liberation and inspiration.
Red Clay Dance Company also provides resources through its Community Engagement, Education, and Partnerships (CEEP) program, which offers culturally rich dance education, programming and training to schools and community spaces on Chicago’s South Side.
The 15th Anniversary season will highlight and pay tribute to Red Clay Dance Company’s work and legacy of thought-provoking, uplifting, challenging and innovative afro-contemporary socially-conscious dance, instruction and programming. This curated season was designed to build on the Company’s legacy of amplifying the voices of the African Diaspora.
“The number 15 is a marker for growth and expansion. As we kick off this 15FORWARD anniversary season, I am even more energized and dedicated to the work of growing and expanding the impact and creative work of this cultural institution,” says Vershawn Sanders-Ward, the brainchild of the organization, the institution’s Founding Artistic Director & CEO. “This is my baby, but the baby is 15 now and learning to lead from within, and it is now the home for so many talented artists and arts lovers, and that makes my heart sing!”
Sanders-Ward envisioned the concept for Red Clay Dance Company during her first trip to Africa in the summer of 2007, with a visit to L’Ecole De Sables, a dance school in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, which brought economic development and entrepreneurial opportunities to its neighbors.
Sanders-Ward desired to build an organization that would have this same impact in marginalized communities on the South Side of Chicago.
Funds raised provide for the continuation of dance programming servicing Chicago’s neighborhoods.