Our Mission: Red Clay Dance lives to awaken "glocal" change through creating, performing and teaching African Diaspora inspired work--change that transforms social, cultural, and economic imbalances in our local and global community.

Our Vision of D.A.N.C.E:

Designing a global model for synergy in

dance performance, dance making,

and dance education

Advancing the avenues that dance uses

to contribute to improving cultural and

socio-economic issues

Nurturing artists from novice to

professional by housing and authentic

pipeline within the company structure

Collaborating to form a global

community of game changers within

the creative arts arena through unique

parternships, innovative performances

and audience development

Elevating the importance of building

community, diversity and collaboration

between African and Afro-Diaspora


Our History: Founded in July 2008 and based in Chicago, Illinois, Red Clay Dance is a professional touring company that creates and performs a diverse repertoire of contemporary dance infused with the vibrant dance and culture of the African Diaspora. Having gained a wealth of experience through her dance studies at Columbia College Chicago (BFA, 2002) and New York University (MFA, 2007) along with internationally acclaimed choreographers and teachers Gus Solomons, Ronald K. Brown, Jawole Zollar and Germaine Acogny, founder Vershawn Ward, a 2013 3Arts Awardee, was encouraged to build and develop projects that support collaborations between African and African American dance makers.

Since its inception, Red Clay Dance has created and produced original works that have appeared in arts festivals around the world such as RAD Fest (2012), Dance Chicago (2011,2013), Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival (2011,2013), Dance Transmissions Festival/Uganda (2010), A.W.A.R.D.S Show/Joyce Soho NYC (2009), The Yard/Martha’s Vineyard (2007), L’Ecole Des Sables/Senegal (2008) and Looptopia Festival Chicago (2008). The company has also self-produced three concerts, " Transcending" (2013), “Celebrating Our Legacy” (2012) and “New Beginnings” (2011).

The company has received grant support from the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation-USArtists International, Harlem Stage NYC, Cliff Dwellers Foundation, Chicago Community Trust Young Leaders Fund, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, North Trust Charitable Trust, the MetLife New Stages for Dance Initiative.

Red Clay Dance Company is in residency at Fuller Park through the Chicago Park District's Arts Partners in Residency Program, which unites artists and communities in Chicago's parks.

Red Clay Dance

Vershawn Ward

Founder|Executive Artistic Director

2013 3Arts Fellow


Vershawn Ward, choreographer, performer, and dance scholar, is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Red Clay Dance Company based in Chicago, IL. Ward holds a MFA in Dance from New York University and is proud to be the first recipient of a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has been presented at festivals in New York, Chicago, Kalamazoo, The Yard at Martha's Vineyard, Toronto, Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, and Kampala, Uganda. She is a 2013 3Arts awardee and is the recipient of a 2009 Choreography Award from Harlem Stage NYC for the creation of her solo work, "New World Afrikan", which premiered at the Dance Transmissions Festival in Kampala, Uganda. Vershawn has served as an adjunct faculty member and facilitated residencies both nationally and internationally, at City Colleges of Chicago, the Dance Center of Columbia College, L’Ecole De Sables, the National Theatre, Kampala, and Knox College. Current projects include a collaboration with fellow 3 Arts' awardees, composer Regina Harris Baiocchi and photographer Cecil McDonald in the creation of her first evening length work riflekSHens in 6. This new work will premiere in Spring 2015.

Artistic Intent

My goal as a choreographer is to create dances that excite and challenge both my audience and my dancers. My artistry serves as an entry point for audiences to examine and dialogue about societal issues such as racism, sexism, and classism. My work seeks to inform and challenge the audience to contemplate where they stand on these issues. It also serves as a catalyst for change in the viewers thoughts and actions towards these topics. My dances deal with universal concepts such as love, unfaithfulness, war, and violence utilizing movement that connects to the spiritual realm and allows the creator to shape and mold my work as a potter molds his clay. How the body cuts through space and draws the audience into lifes labyrinths are at the crux of my choreographic intent. My Afro-Contemporay esthetic is anchored in the rhythms and accents of West African dance combined with the coolness and edge of the hip-hop culture, sprinkled with modern and ballet movement vocabulary. The movement is grounded, powerful, and full, but ready to take flight at a moments notice!