Red Clay Dance Company LA FEMME DANCE FESTIVAL Preview – VERSHAWN SANDERS-WARD Reveals the Festivities

Photo by Brain Sanders


March 14th
6-7:30pm, ChoreoLab led by Lindsay Renea Benton
7:30-9pm, Learning Circle with Ellen Chenoweth, Felicia Holman, and choreographers

High Concept Labs 2233 South Throop, Chicago, IL 60608

FREE, RSVP required


March 15th
7pm Performance followed by a post-show discussion led by Lela Aisha Jones

Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield Ave., Chicago, IL 60637



March 16th
6pm Pre-show discussion led by Vershawn Sanders-Ward
7pm Performance

Green Line Performing Arts Center


After experiencing Eikili Munda | What Lies Within in November, this dance writer was intrigued to learn more about Vershawn Sanders-Ward’s plans for the third biennial La Femme Dance Festival. Focusing on uplifting women choreographers identifying as black/afro-diasporic, while drawing audience and community members to the brand new Green Line Arts Center located just off of East Garfield and South Michigan Avenue, Vershawn and her fellow curators have put together a program of performances, workshops, lectures, and discussions by 5 choreographers from Chicago, Philadelphia, and Ohio.

La Femme Dance Festival is co-curated by Red Clay Dance Company Founder and Artistic Director Vershawn Sanders-Ward (Chicago), Flyground Founder Lela Aisha Jones (Philadelphia), and Catalyst Movement Founder and Curator Aaliyah Christina (Chicago).  The festival will premiere works by these choreographers, read their bios below:

Lindsay Renea Benton (right) -- a dancer, choreographer, and educator from Youngstown, Ohio. She earned her BFA in dance at Howard University and upon graduating performed as a principal dancer with Garth Fagan Dance Company. Benton has dedicated much of her career to giving back to her hometown through the Lindsay Renea Dance Theatre. She earned her M.F.A. in choreography at Jacksonville University and is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Alabama State University. She will be leading the ChoreoLab workshop at La Femme Dance Festival (see below).

Photo by Rohaan Unvala

Jasmin Williams (below) -- a multilingual native Chicagoan who has trained, worked and lived in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and throughout Western Europe. She has attended Dance Theater of Harlem and Dance Italia and performed Memoria with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Williams is a dancer for Winifred Haun and Dancers and rehearsal director/dance collaborator for Motion Pictures Dance Project. She is presenting her first evening-length work as a part of Links Halls’ 40th season. All of her work aims to encourage true vulnerability and interdependence, as a means to promote unity within diversity and respect in all communities.

Photo by Ron Himes

Brittany Chanel Winters (right) -- a Chicago-based dance artist, hopes to always be in spaces that foster and value growth, authenticity, cultural exploration, compassion, and journeying. When she can’t find those spaces, she wishes to create and share them. Her focus is on creating a movement vocabulary rooted in Afro-diasporic forms.

Photo by Shoccara Marcus

L. Graciella Maiolatesi (left) -- a dance M.F.A. student at Temple University. She received her B.A. in dance and black studies from Denison University. Much of her work uses movement and narrative to create dialogue on issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Mailoatesi believes that dance has the power to promote change as long as we are brave enough to tell our stories. She uses props, blends text, video, and vocalization in her work, resonating activism.

Marceia L. Scruggs (above) -- a mover and creator is highly driven by her research in women’s/gender studies. As an artist and movement researcher, her emphasis is on writing, performance, and storytelling from her Black Womxn’s lens. She is a company member of Red Clay Dance Company and Ground Rhythm Dance Project. Her mentors include, but are not limited to, dance makers such as Kevin Iega Jeff, Gary Abbott, Darrell Jones, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Based in Chicago, Vershawn notes that, “Scruggs’ work integrates the diaspora through modes of ‘code-switching.’ She has one foot in two worlds as a black person in America: maintaining her cultural history while existing in American society where her culture is not upheld as the main standard.”

Vershawn Sanders-Ward says, “Audience members can expect to experience a wide range of choreographic voices from the African diaspora expressed in the body, providing a deeper understanding of the featured female dancemakers. I am excited to welcome these choreographers to Chicago while celebrating artists in the local community as well.

“We, the festival curators, wanted to be very thoughtful about what was the most we can give artists in a festival situation. If we had the money, we could make it a whole week! What can we do in 3 days to make this an awesome experience for the whole artist?”

Sanders-Ward continues, “High Concept Labs has been a huge supporter of the festival, providing space for the workshops. On March 14, a ChoreoLab (a choreographic workshop) will take place from 6-7:30pm led by Lindsay Renea Benton. Dancers and dancemakers from all over the city are welcome to bring their own material to work on, have a conversation, and learn about the process of dancemaking from a professional in the field. We not only get to see Benton’s finished product on stage, but we also get a little taste of the inner workings of her creative mind.

“Following the ChoreoLab will be a Learning Circle from 7:30-9pm, which will help answer the creator’s dilemma of ‘how do I make things happen?’ Ellen Chenoweth of the Dance Center at Columbia College Chicago and Felicia Holman of Links Hall will come together with the choreographers to share some inside expertise about creating and producing work, from touring, budgeting, promotion, marketing. They’ll cover all the logistics of creating a show.

“This festival aims to unite the community, highlight women choreographers of color, and provide a wholesome experience for the choreographers and audience members alike. We hope all who partake in the festival will support dance as an art form, and continue to appreciate it as a means of expression and community building. We also hope people will come out to support artistic women, especially women of color, as independent artists in the community. And we invite dance connoisseurs from all over the city to come to the South Side to share their experiences, support dancers and choreographers of color in the community, and to be exposed to new work."

For more about La Femme Dance Festival, the full schedule and tickets, visit See Chicago Dance website, Red Clay Dance Company website.

Editor's Note: Special thanks to Vershawn Sanders-Ward for assisting Picture this Post writer Sarah Stearn with this story.

Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here— 

Find more Picture This Post dance reviews in the latest roundup — CHOREOGRAPHERS WE LOVE. Also, watch a short preview video here —


About Author:

Sarah Stearn, a native of Chicago, is a dancer and videographer. She has recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Dance, and is excited to be back in the city. Currently, she works with Tuli Bera on the J e l l o Performance Series.

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